National voter turnout rates are criminally low given the importance of exercising our voting right and the myriad of opportunities to do so. While the 2019 municipal elections aren’t considered “major,” it’s important to remember that every year is an election year with new candidates and referenda up for a vote. One such referendum proposes the construction of a net-zero school in Mansfield. Registered voters will be posed this question, as written on the official citywide ballot: “Shall the town of Mansfield appropriate $50,512,000 for costs with respect to the design, construction, equipping and furnishing of a pre-K through grade 4 elementary school to be located on town-owned property at 134 Warrenville Road in Mansfield, and the demolition of the existing Southeast Elementary School, and authorize the issue of bonds and notes to finance the portion of the appropriation not defrayed from grants?” If you’re a registered voter in Mansfield, then you have every reason to vote “yes.”
Starting with the obvious, constructing a net-zero school in Mansfield would benefit the environment. By definition, a net-zero building generates about as much energy as it consumes, which is much more sustainable than using carbon-based energy. The proposed building would avoid using an oil or gas boiler, which is antiquated and pollutes our air, and traditional lighting, which is inefficient and uninviting. Instead it’d implement solar panels, geothermal wells and natural lighting, among other design and management fixtures.
Financially speaking, constructing a net-zero school in Mansfield would benefit all parties involved. Connecticut has agreed to pay $27 million in construction costs, with Mansfield paying the remaining $21.6 million. In contrast, Mansfield alone would have to pay $20 million over the next decade to renovate its three horribly outdated school buildings, alongside higher ongoing operational costs. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings initiative, “energy consumption represents the second highest operational expense to schools, second only to salaries”. On account of its lower energy consumption, a net-zero school could allocate its funds to other areas of need and would save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. Lastly, the referendum’s official website astutely notes that “a first-class school system helps protect property values and attracts young families to town”.
At the heart of the issue, Mansfield’s children would benefit educationally from a net-zero school’s construction. The city’s school district aims to instill “collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, global citizenship and communication skills” within its students. The net-zero school’s innovative design would facilitate such real-world preparation, enhancing resource management, physical workspaces, which typically lack flexibility and variation, and teachers’ ability to accommodate particular students’ needs and desires.
In order for this referendum to pass, at least 15% of Mansfield’s registered voters must vote in approval and constitute the majority of respondents. Connecticut offers same-day registration to those who provide proof of identity and residence, so visit Mansfield Town Hall tomorrow if you’d like to vote in Mansfield and are eligible to do so. To all registered Mansfield voters, please visit the Mansfield Community Center tomorrow between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. – UConn will provide transportation – and vote “yes” for the construction of a net-zero school in Mansfield.
Michael Katz is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.