EDITOR’S NOTE: In the run-up to the May 11 school bond election, the San Marcos Mercury has invited a cross-section of community members to weigh in on the proposed $77 million capital improvement program. Early voting starts April 29.
GUEST COMMENTARY by BILL ADAMS
There are at least three sound financial basis for San Marcos citizens to vote for Propositions I and II on the school bond issue on May 11. The first to consider is the safety, health and welfare for our children. The second is property values generally improve with the passage of school bonds for the community. And third, conservation of water and energy is imperative as we experience a doubling of population in our region over the next 50 years.
The San Marcos CISD has all of the of schools listed in Proposition I, and several will have much needed replacement of heating and air conditioner systems that are well past their rated useful life. The new units will provide improved energy efficiency with a much higher quality of air ventilation. For instance, the Lamar campus currently has a 40-year-old system in operation with replacement parts difficult to come by. Portions of the Lamar campus do not have operational HVAC because parts have been cannibalized from various sections of the system to keep a primary air handling system operational. I appreciate maximizing the useful life cycle of an asset, but this is a case of being forced to spend a dollar to save a dime, at an unnecessary risk to health of our children, staff, and faculty.
In the 2006 article by Gregory Katz, “Greening America’s Schools: Cost and Benefits” the author presents a number of important health benefits to consider when improving ventilation in our schools. For instance, a recent review by Carnegie Mellon of five separate studies evaluating the impact of improved indoor air quality on asthma found an average reduction of 38.5% in asthma in buildings with improved air quality.
Improved ventilation and air quality reduces a range of respiratory illnesses, including common colds and influenza. Another review by Carnegie Mellon of two studies evaluating the impact of improved indoor air quality on colds and flu found an average reduction of 51% in buildings with improved air quality.
From a health standpoint the costs of poor indoor environmental air quality include higher absenteeism and increased respiratory ailments. Poor indoor air quality and increased respiratory ailments contribute to lower teacher and staff productivity, lower student motivation, slower learning, lower tests scores, increased medial costs, and lowered lifelong achievement and earnings.
Based on information provided by the San Marcos CISD, improved energy efficiency of new HVAC units at Hernandez elementary school are estimated to provide a reduction in electricity dollars spent of $50,000 per year in operation expenses. At the Lamar campus $108,000 is currently budgeted to spend on utilities. A new Lamar facility is projected to operate at $26,000 per year in utility expense.
I urge the citizens of San Marcos CISD to vote and pass both Propositions I and II of the School Bond issue on May 11, with early voting April 29 through May 7, 2013. We can afford to do this today for our children and our community to pave the way to a prosperous future.
BILL ADAMS is a doctoral student in environmental geography at Texas State University.