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Texas Cool Schools Program

Texas Cool Schools
An HVAC grant program for Texas public school districts

Utilities represent the third-largest spending category for Texas schools, and much of this expenditure is driven by old, inefficient equipment. The Texas Cool Schools grant program is intended to help our state’s schools lower their operating costs by purchasing new and more energy-efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.

The Comptroller's State Energy Conservation Office awarded Texas Cool Schools grants using funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). Originally $25 million, SECO was able to increase program funding by 36% to provide funding to a greater number of school districts. Cool School grants were awarded on a competitive basis.

Other Opportunities for ISDs

More than 400 school districts applied for Texas Cool Schools grants; however, even with the additional funding, only a portion of the applications were awarded grants. School districts that applied for Texas Cool Schools grants but did not receive funding are encouraged to seek alternate funding sources for identified HVAC projects. Other funding sources include, but are not limited to the following:

Texas Cool Schools Awarded Projects

On Oct. 10, 2011, the Comptroller awarded competitive federal stimulus Cool Schools grants to the following ISDs. Per program rules, grants were awarded on a competitive basis, with scoring criteria based on factors including enrollment, district property wealth, the age of current equipment and the estimated energy savings available from new equipment.

Award Amount Independent School District
$850,181.00 AXTELL
$521,848.00 BALLINGER
$189,650.00 BLUE RIDGE
$1,385,600.00 BROADDUS
$174,875.00 BUCKHOLTS
$610,940.00 CELESTE
$640,000.00 CHARLOTTE
$432,132.00 COLORADO
$298,165.77 COOLIDGE
$200,927.00 CRANDALL
$757,000.00 CROCKETT (Crockett, TX)
$327,887.19 CROSS PLAINS
$147,140.00 CUMBY
$366,160.00 D'HANIS
$330,000.02 DIBOLL
$1,800,000.00 DONNA
$531,080.00 EASTLAND
$1,998,250.00 EDINBURG CONSOLIDATED
$211,999.00 FLATONIA
$349,414.10 FRANKSTON
$463,680.00 GRANGER
$460,466.00 HAMLIN
$139,630.00 HART
$261,800.00 HENRIETTA
$444,280.00 JONESBORO
$425,860.00 KNIPPA
$105,575.00 MASON
$1,575,221.70 MEDINA VALLEY
$486,100.00 MEMPHIS
$1,905,701.71 MEXIA
$141,470.00 MIDWAY (Henrietta, TX)
$186,752.79 MORAN
$769,959.96 MORTON
$408,866.94 MULESHOE
$1,391,470.84 NORTH FOREST
$1,203,040.64 OLTON
$131,828.00 PARADISE
$270,580.00 POTH
$176,429.40 PRIDDY
$530,100.00 RALLS
$828,000.00 RICARDO
$276,707.00 ROBY CONSOLIDATED
$593,079.00 ROGERS
$1,010,880.00 ROSEBUD-LOTT
$160,200.00 SAM RAYBURN
$1,756,875.00 SAN ANTONIO
$215,000.00 SAN PERLITA
$450,100.00 SANFORD-FRITCH
$429,148.13 SAVOY
$402,265.00 SINTON
$278,104.98 SPURGER
$1,093,197.00 SWEETWATER
$982,140.00 TOM BEAN
$316,008.00 WARREN
$333,224.00 WODEN
$429,256.00 WOODSBORO
$330,000.00 WYLIE (Wylie, TX)

Program FAQs: see details

General

  1. When will the preliminary grant awards be announced?
    • SECO anticipates that preliminary grant awards will be announced in October. The list of awarded ISDs and grant amounts are not final until contract execution.
  2. Can the governing board or the board of trustees approve our proposed Texas Cool Schools project prior to the ISD receiving the grant award?
    • Yes, ISDs can present their proposed HVAC project to their board for review and approval prior to receiving notification of the grant award.
  3. Can the governing board or board of trustees adopt a resolution authorizing the execution of a contract with the State Energy Conservation Office prior to the ISD receiving the grant award?
    • The board and its legal counsel should thoroughly review the grant agreement, including all attachments, prior to authorizing the execution of the contract. As such, applicants should wait for receipt from SECO of an official award notification of the grant funds, pending successful contract execution, prior to adopting a board resolution to authorize execution of the specific contract offered the ISD. For example, please note that the grant agreement requires that each person who is a decision maker for the ISD with respect to the grant agreement complete a Nepotism Disclosure Form (see Attachment O on page 53 of the sample grant agreement). The school should consult with its legal counsel on board resolutions and other requirements grantees must meet if receiving notification of a tentative contract award.
  4. Is there are standard form to use for the school board resolution to accept the award, once offered?
    • No. SECO does not have a standard form or preferred format for the school board resolution authorizing the execution of a contract. Each ISD should consult its legal counsel regarding the appropriate procedures for that ISD.

Eligibility

  1. Which entities can apply for Texas Cool Schools grants?
    • The Texas Cool Schools grant program is open to all Texas school districts.
  2. How many grants can a school district apply for?
    • Each school district is eligible for only one Texas Cool Schools grant, but that grant can cover the cost of replacing multiple heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems on several campuses within the school district.
  3. Does the program place any restrictions on which HVAC systems can be replaced?
    • Yes. The replaced HVAC system(s) must serve school buildings that include instructional spaces. Buildings devoted entirely to other purposes, such as administration buildings, sports field houses, warehouses and garages, are not eligible.
  4. The type of HVAC equipment we need is not listed on the eligible project list (Exhibit A). Are other types of HVAC equipment eligible?
    • Only HVAC projects detailed in Exhibit A (Eligible Projects) are eligible for funding. Projects and/or equipment not specifically listed are ineligible.
  5. How old must existing HVAC systems be to qualify for replacement under this grant? How should equipment age be determined?
    • The HVAC system(s) or equipment to be replaced must be at least 10 years old. The age of replaced equipment can be proven with original sales receipts, installation records, property inventories, etc.
  6. What standard or measure will be used to ensure that qualified projects are energy efficient?
    • To receive Texas Cool Schools grant funding, your district’s project must meet or exceed equipment and system efficiency standards established in the 2009 edition of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC 2009). For specific IECC design and equipment requirements, ISD’s should consult a licensed Texas professional engineer or HVAC contractor. For more information on building energy codes, you can visit the ICC website.
  7. One of the schools in our district does not have an HVAC system. Can we use this grant to install a new system?
    • No. The Texas Cool Schools grant is only for the replacement of existing HVAC systems. It cannot be used to build or acquire new heating, cooling or ventilation systems.
  8. My district is seeking funding to replace existing HVAC systems and/or equipment for a total amount of less than $100,000. Is my school district eligible for the Cool Schools grant?
    • No. The Texas Cool Schools grant program offers a minimum grant amount of $100,000. A similar program for HVAC replacement projects costing less than $100,000 will be available through the State Energy Program in 2012. See SECO Programs for more information.
  9. Can Texas Cool Schools grant funds be used for other energy efficiency or renewable energy programs other than HVAC replacement?
    • No. This grant program is only for the replacement of existing HVAC systems that meet the grant criteria.
  10. We have a few split systems on which either the inside or outside unit was replaced; therefore, only one piece of the system is older than 10 years of age. According to our HVAC contractor, due to more recent regulations we can no longer have only the older unit replaced and still expect it to work efficiently with the unit that is 7 to 9 years of age. Do these split systems qualify for grant funding under the Texas Cool Schools Program?
    • Split system (S/S) units that are 7-10 years old use an HCFC refrigerant called R-22, which now has limited production and availability. If one of the primary S/S components (condensing unit or furnace) is older than 10 years, then the entire system may be replaced.

Application

  1. The application requires photos of the existing equipment in question 2A3. Does there need to be a separate photo for each component?
    • Photos are required to document the existing equipment. Written records for several individual components can be linked to one photo that shows the combined equipment installation. An individual photo for each component is not required.
  2. Where are the tabs (Part 2A, 2B, 2C and 3A) on the Application Worksheet? When I open the Excel file I can only see one tab.
    • The Application Worksheet should have four tabs across the bottom left of the Excel file, when opened. If you cannot see these tabs, it is possible that the worksheet screen size is too large for your screen's resolution. If you have problems viewing the tab, use this alternate, low-resolution application worksheet: http://secoa/arra/sep/coolschools/doc/Application_Worksheet_LowRes.xlsx
      You may have to adjust the view/zoom after opening.
  3. Why are the application files "read-only"?
    • The Application (Exhibit C) and Application Worksheet (Exhibit D) are "read-only" files because you cannot save them back to their original source, the SECO Stimulus website. Once you have opened either file, choose to "Save As" and save the files to your computer.
  4. I am having trouble inputting data into the cells of the worksheet. Why can't I enter information in certain cells?
    • In the Application Worksheet (Exhibit D) there are cells in which applicants are not supposed to enter data. For example, column D and column F on Tab Part 2B are protected formula columns. The information in these two columns is automatically calculated from the applicant data entered in other cells on the worksheet. These columns are password protected because SECO wants each applicant to calculate their savings using the same formula as the formula that is entered in those protected cells. This ensures that the scores resulting from the calculations are comparable. You cannot delete entire rows on Tabs 2B, 2C and 3A because each row contains formulas or locked cells.
  5. How do I delete rows on Tabs 2B, 2C or 3A?
    • If you have invalid or incorrect information on a row, you can delete the applicant-entered data contained on that row. Once the invalid or unwanted data is removed, you can either choose to add correct data into the empty cells, or you can leave those cells blank. Skipping rows or blank rows will not affect the final calculations at the bottom of each sheet.
  6. The formatting is different in some of the cells on the Application Worksheet. Will this affect the scoring?
    • If different fonts or font sizes are used on the application, it will not affect the scoring. The newest version of the Application Worksheet does allows for formatting changes in some areas.
  7. I have questions on Tab 3A of the Application Worksheet. How should I account for engineer costs? Where should I list the auxiliary equipment and materials?
    • Engineer costs should be entered as a separate line item on Tab 3A of the Application Worksheet. The installation and materials costs associated with each type of equipment listed in column A (Types of HVAC Equipment and Energy Efficiency Improvements) of Tab 3A should be listed on the same line under column D (Installation and Materials).
  8. What does the 30-page limit include?
    • The 30-page limit refers to 30 sheets of 8.5 x 11 pieces of paper. These can be printed on the front and back. The page limit only includes that application (Exhibit C) and application worksheet (Exhibit D). The page limit does not include the photos or existing equipment documentation, as detailed in Question #56 of the Official Questions and Answers.
  9. How do I enter energy savings in kWh (electric) and cubic feet (gas) on the Application Worksheet (Exhibit D)?
    • Applicants should enter all energy usage or savings as BTUs. This captures both electric and gas energy costs/savings, as both can be converted to BTUs using the following conversions: 1 kWh = 3,413 BTU and 100 cubic feet = 100,000 BTU.

Procurement

  1. Once our district receives this grant funding, can we proceed immediately with acquiring new HVAC systems?
    • Your district must first follow and document proper procurement procedures before purchasing any equipment. All installation services, equipment and materials contracts paid in part or whole with ARRA funding must be procured according to your district's procurement procedures and all applicable state and local laws and regulations. The request for qualifications (RFQ) or bid process must have begun after the posting of the official grant application on August 5, 2011.

      To foster greater economy and efficiency, all districts are encouraged to take advantage of intergovernmental purchasing agreements.
  2. Can any HVAC system or equipment be procured as long as it is listed on the eligible product list (Attachment A)?
    • No. The use of ARRA funding means that your project must comply with the act’s Buy American provisions, meaning that all goods used must be manufactured in the U.S. School districts must certify, through an attachment to their contract with the Comptroller, that they will comply with these provisions, which include a flow-down requirement for all vendors and contractors. School districts must obtain from their contractors/vendors all invoices for goods used in the construction, alteration or repair process. Such invoices must indicate that the goods were manufactured in the U.S., and must be kept in the project files.
  3. Does the program place any restrictions on which vendors, contractors or installers can be used?
    • Yes. Any vendor, contractor or installer that will receive funds from the grant must be selected through a competitive procurement process. Furthermore, the school board and district leadership must disclose any potential conflicts of interest with vendors, contractors,  installers and any other recipients of grant funding.
  4. Since the grants represent federal funds, are there any specific wage requirements for contractors hired to install new HVAC systems?
    • Yes. All laborers and mechanics employed on construction projects worth more than $2,000 must receive at least the Davis-Bacon Act prevailing wage rates for the project’s location, as published by the U.S. Department of Labor.
  5. Are engineers required to review or supervise HVAC work performed under these grants?
    • Yes. Texas Cool Schools project engineering plans, specifications and estimates must be prepared by, and the engineering construction performed under the direct supervision of, a professional engineer (PE) licensed in the state of Texas. Your district can include the cost of hiring a PE for a grant-funded project in the grant application. To locate a PE or confirm a PE license in Texas, you can search the Texas Board of Professional Engineers roster of Professional Engineers, Registered Engineer Firms and Engineers in Training (EIT).
  6. Why are RFQs or bids received prior to August 5 ineligible?
    • The Texas Cool Schools program is set up differently from other SECO programs and ISDs need to be fully informed of the program requirements before the procurement process begins, to ensure the most accurate bids. Additionally, the grant funding is derived from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and ARRA funds cannot supplant existing funds. Bids received prior to the grant program being announced look like bids for existing funding and therefore will not be acceptable for this program.
  7. For school districts that have already gone through the difficult process of selecting an ESCO, how would the [eligibility bullet relating to procurement prior to August 5, 2011] affect the status between the District and the ESCO?
    • Due to grant specific project requirements, any procurement specifically related to the Texas Cool Schools project must not have been completed prior to SECO posting the grant project requirements on August 5, 2011. Qualified ESCos (Energy Services Companies) under contract with an ISD prior to August 5 for other services may work on Cool School projects, as long as the Cool School scope of work is separately documented from the other work performed by the ESCo. This is necessary because ARRA requires that ARRA funds are held and accounted for separately from other funds. Additionally, engineers, contractors and other professional service providers under contract with an ISD prior to August 5th for general professional services unrelated to this project may perform work for the Texas Cool Schools program. All purchase orders, service orders and any other work-specific assignments must be dated August 5th or later.
  8. If an RFQ for an energy savings performance contract is issued after August 5 but includes both eligible and ineligible projects, can the grant funds be used to pay the eligible projects included in the energy savings performance contact?
    • Yes. Eligible projects that are part of energy savings performance contacts procured after August 5 can be paid for with grant funds, if awarded, as long as the ARRA-funded projects are tracked separately, including separate accounting, invoicing and certified payrolls, in accordance with Federal regulations. The ISD and its contractors will be responsible for establishing a clear distinction between ARRA and non-ARRA funded portions of the project.
  9. If an existing energy savings performance contract (procured before August 5) included eligible projects, can the grant funds be used to pay for those projects?
    • No. The grant funding is derived from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and ARRA funds cannot supplant existing funds. Existing funds should have been available for projects planned under an agreement pre-dating the grant program announcement, and therefore the grant funds cannot be used.
  10. Is the ISD allowed to use qualified staff, such as district engineers, contractors or laborers, to perform the services required under this grant agreement?
    • If a grant is awarded under this RFA, the district may use its qualified staff to perform the services required by the approved projects. If services are not being provided by district staff, the ISD must procure the services following district procurement procedures reflecting an open, competitive procurement process as required by federal, state and local laws. All contractors must complete the Contractor Assurances and Certification form (Attachment P on page 58 of the sample grant agreement).
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