Riverside-Brookfield High School is planning on using state grant money to pay for more than 90 percent of cost of a lighting upgrade in its gyms that is expected to save the school about $21,000 a year in reduced energy costs.

The state of Illinois has issued $50 million in bonds for school maintenance grants. Each school district can submit one grant application, and the state will grant a maximum of $50,000 to one district.

RBHS has applied for a grant to upgrade its lighting in the main gym, east gym, gymnastics gym and the fieldhouse and also to erect a new electronic message sign along First Avenue.

The school will replace 160 halogen fixtures in its gyms with florescent T8 fixtures at a cost of $70,440. The school expects to get a $35,220 school maintenance grant and an additional $30,312 grant from the state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to pay for nearly 93 percent of the cost of the lighting upgrade.

The school would only have to shell out $4,908 from its own pocket and expects to reap annual savings of $21,867 a year in reduced electricity costs, according to memo from District 208 Chief Financial Officer Tim McGinnis to Superintendent Kevin Skinkis.

“This is a big step in the right direction for us,” Skinkis said.

Facilities Manager Joel Hatje and McGinnis presented the outlines of the grant proposal to the school board at its March 27 committee of the whole meeting.

The new lights will reach full brightness immediately after being turned on, unlike the current halogen lights.

“You’ll see a difference right away,” Hatje said.

The school is planning to use the remaining $14,780 of its anticipated $50,000 school maintenance grant to help pay for a new electronic message sign outside the school at the corner of First Avenue and Ridgewood Road.

The RB Boosters Club is also contributing $15,000 for the new LED sign, which has been talked about for two years. With the current senior class chipping in a $5,000 contribution, the school will only have to pay $6,220 for the $41,000 cost of a new sign.

If for some reason the school does not obtain the grants, RBHS would not go forward with the projects, McGinnis said.

“We’ll find out shortly after May 1 if we’ll get the grant,” McGinnis said.

At the March 27 meeting, McGinnis also announced that the school has reached an agreement with Verizon to add that wireless carrier to the cell tower on the district’s property. Verizon will pay $2,750 per month to rent space on the cell tower and the signal will be added by July 1 or sooner. Verizon will start paying its monthly rent once its equipment is installed.

AT&T and Sprint currently rent space on the cell tower. Those two companies paid for the construction of the tower and in return had their rent abated for six years. Sprint will start paying rent in January 2014 and AT&T will start paying rent in June of 2015. Both AT&T will pay about $1,800 a month.

McGinnis said that the district also is reaching out to T-Mobile about adding that company’s equipment to the cell tower.