Parkland mulls introducing energy program

Parkland is toying with the idea of introducing an environmental program that would provide financial help to residents looking to make their homes more energy efficient.

At a recent City Commission workshop, officials debated the pros and cons of the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program, which would provide participants with upfront cash to make energy improvements to their homes. The city would act as the facilitator and help participants obtain financing; the special assessment levied on the property would be paid off by the property owner on his or her tax bill over 20 years.

“This is a program that is nationwide and gaining steam in Florida,” Public Works director Brian Archer told city officials. “Broward County is using it. So is the state and some cities like Hollywood… The city might have to put some upfront costs that it can later on recoup… The assessment goes with the property and not the property owner.”

Mayor Michael Udine likes the concept. “It is a great thing if we can do it,” he said. “It really is minimal to next to no cost for the city… It is a way for our residents to do a very expensive program and kind of internally finance it themselves;, I’d like to see it happen.”

Vice Mayor Christine Hunschofsky wasn’t as excited. Participants would end up paying not just for the energy improvements but also for the administrative costs of the city, she said.

“I think banks should be doing financing and not cities,” she said. “This, for me, seems like it is the city becoming a bank… I don’t see the need for it.”

Commissioner Mark Weissman was of the opinion that the program would benefit residents. “We have a way of borrowing money for a much longer terms and a much lower interest rate than a homeowner would be able to,” he said. “A bank can lend money to a homeowner, but it won’t be on the tax bill and won’t be tax deductible.”

Commissioner Dave Rosenof liked the program’s concept but said he wouldn’t support it if it was at any cost to the city. “The administrative costs need to be borne by people who benefit from it,” he said. “I already have solar panels on my house. I don’t want to pay for my neighbor to get solar panels. I did it to save money on my electrical; so, my neighbor can do the same thing.”

Some of the cities that have the program have hired private companies to administer it. The City Commission will make a final decision on the program after staff returns with additional information.

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