Opinion: The PACE program may provide a pandemic lifeline for businesses, nonprofits and private schools: Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea and County Tax Assessor-Collector Travis, Bruce Elfant advocate for a clean energy agenda – Chronicles



Two major disasters this year have left many businesses, nonprofits and private schools wondering how to pay for improvements to their buildings.

The pandemic has increased the need for improved ventilation for cleaner air, and the February freeze has prompted many homeowners to switch to green or energy-efficient solutions. The question is: how can they afford it while the economy is still recovering from the pandemic?

Travis County has created a fundraising program that offers help. Clean Energy Rated by Property (PACE) provides a pandemic lifeline that can make buildings more efficient, healthy and / or resilient while reducing operating costs through its special funding method.

Loan applications are submitted prior to the improvements or retroactively, the latter provided that the applicant can demonstrate that the intention of the improvements was to increase energy efficiency, create a healthier building or reduce the environmental impact, like saving water. These loans offer 100% low initial interest rates and long-term repayment, typically 20 to 30 years, through a real estate appraisal. They literally pay for themselves.

Here’s how PACE works:

• A business owner or non-profit is requesting long-term private funding for energy or water conservation improvements.

• Private lenders review and approve the financing request. No public funds are used.

• The applicant must agree to a voluntary assessment imposed on the property under a written contract with Travis County.

• Applicant’s assessment payments are calculated to be offset against the cost savings of their funded project.

• The appraisal has the same legal priority as a property tax and this is what qualifies the applicant for long term, low interest rate financing that is not available in traditional markets.

In February 2016, the Beth Israel Congregation of Travis County secured the first PACE loan in Texas to upgrade the boilers and energy efficiency of their school building. The synagogue saved enough money on utility bills to cover the cost of the loan.

There are many enhancements businesses can use PACE for, including:

• Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems

• Low flow plumbing

• Insulation

• Roof

• Solar installations

• LED lighting

We are aware that many companies are suffering as a result of the pandemic, but they may be able to make improvements that will lower their operating costs under this program. If there is a small ray of light, the decrease in the number of internal customers due to COVID-19 can offer businesses and nonprofits the opportunity to initiate improvement projects with minimal disruption to business. clients. This can be a lifeline in the event of a pandemic.

We encourage businesses and nonprofits to take advantage of Travis County’s PACE program to reduce operating costs while reducing energy and water waste without disrupting cash flow. If this is not the time for your business, please consider using PACE for future projects. To learn more about the PACE program, including how companies are using it to reduce costs, visit texaspaceauthority.org.

This was co-authored by Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea, a well-known environmental activist, and Travis County tax assessor-collector Bruce Elfant, who championed the clean energy program assessed by the property to help businesses find solutions for energy patches.

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