The Tamaqua Area School District is exploring a proposal to install solar energy panels on district property.

Arthur Oakes, Jr., the district's facilities manager, told the school board's finance committee Tuesday evening that Tamaqua Area has been approached by two solar firms proposing to do a study as to whether or not such an installation would be feasible.

These companies are looking for a plot of land to install solar panels that are owned by the district.

"They do the research on the property, and we would have an obligation to accept or reject their findings," Oakes said.

If such an area is available, they would work with the district in writing grant applications for a solar energy project.

"If there's no grant, there's no project," mentioned Oakes.

If grant funding is obtained, the panels would be installed, if the district is agreeable. Then, whatever power is produced would come back into the district.

"That could be as much as 50-60 percent savings," said Oakes.

If the panels produce more power than the district can use, the company would sell off the excess energy, he added.

The two firms that approached the school district were Cross River Solar, which services Eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey and maintains offices in Easton as well as Hazlet and Long Branch, New Jersey; and Reading Electric.

The district is looking at working with Cross River Solar, which has offered to do the feasibility study at no cost, while Reading Electric charges a fee, noted Oakes. In addition, Cross River Solar is doing a similar project with the Nazareth Area School District.

As to where the district would install such panels, Oakes mentioned the possibility of a tract on the South Mountain, behind the middle school.

"They would need two acres of land," he noted. "That is as big as two football fields."

If the district enters into an agreement with Cross River Solar, it would agree to stay with it for 60 days while it explores the feasibility.

"They want to see the past two years of our energy bills," said Oakes. "It does not conflict with our geothermal energy numbers. PPL will give you that data in July."

The company would also look at system size, site suitability and analysis of the district's energy consumption during the feasibility study.

The board of education will consider an agreement with Cross River Solar at its monthly meeting on Tuesday, June 15.

Final budget

Also at next week's meeting, the board will look to finalize the district's budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year, which begins on July 1.

The $27.4 million spending plan includes a 1.25 mill real estate tax increase, which would raise the district's millage rate to 33.36.

The tax hike would mean residents would have to pay an additional $1.25 for every $1,000 of assessed value, which in Schuylkill County is 50 percent of the property value. For example, the owner of a property assessed at $10,000 would pay an additional $12.50 next year, with the tax bill increasing from $321.10 to $333.60.

Business manager Connie Ligenza said there have been no changes in the budget since it was tentatively adopted.

The district also established the Homestead/Farmstead Exclusion for 2010-11 at $142 for eligible properties, per information provided to the district by the county assessment office.

Ligenza said the Homestead/Farmstead assessment is realized as a deduction in property taxes, not a direct rebate. Last year's exclusion was $143.

The finance committee also established the payment periods for per capita, assessed occupation and real estate taxes for 2010-11, as follows: rebate period (of a 2 percent discount) from July to August; the face period from September to October; and the penalty period (10 percent) from November to December.

Track athletes honored

Michael Hromyak, director of athletics, introduced three members of the Tamaqua girls track and field team who earned medals at the PIAA State Track and Field Championships May 28-29.

Junior Allison Updike won the state title in the Class AA javelin with a throw of 161 feet, two inches; freshman Christine Streisel placed fifth in the javelin with a throw of 136-3; and sophomore Amber Carroll placed seventh in the AA 3,200 meters with a school record 11:03.59. The girls were accompanied by assistant coach Mike Sakash and volunteer coach John Kotchmar.