By Rick Palsgrove
The Groveport Madison school board will choose from nine operating levy options, as well as a bond issue option to build a new high school, to be placed on the May 6 ballot.
“We need to look long term so the district does not go back to the voters so often asking for money,” said Treasurer Tony Swartz. “We need enough money to sustain programs and restore some cuts. But we also need to consider what people can afford. The goal is to get the district healthy financially.”
The board approved a resolution of necessity to send the levy and bond issue options to the Franklin County auditor’s office for certification. The board plans to decide on which of the options to place on the ballot at its Jan. 22 meeting. The board must also decide if the operating levy and bond issue would be placed on the ballot as separate issues or combined as one ballot issue. The board has until Feb. 5 to file for the May 6 ballot.
The options for a separate 5-year emergency operating levy with the amount of revenue generated per year along with the annual cost to the owner of a $100,000 home are: $4.5 million, $216; $5.4 million, $261; $5.7 million, $278; and $6.5 million, $313.
A separate $33.3 million, 38-year bond issue to build a new high school, coupled with a .5 mill permanent improvement levy, would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $96 per year.
If the board decides to combine the operating levy with the bond issue as one ballot issue, the annual cost to the owner of a $100,000 home could range from $312 to $409 depending on the option selected.
The board made $4.6 million in cuts after the district’s levy failure last May. Cuts included freezing salaries and reducing health benefits as well as staffing cuts, eliminating high school busing and reductions to some after-school activities.
Superintendent Bruce Hoover said he will present the board, at its Jan. 22 meeting, with plans on which of the $4.6 million in cuts could be restored, depending on which levy option is selected.
“Our teachers have given up a lot, but they have never given up on our students,” said Hoover. “They have taken salary freezes and increased their share of health care costs while also experiencing larger class sizes and increased responsibilities because of positions we’ve had to cut.”
But Hoover also asked the board to consider the economic situation of the voters in the district when choosing a levy option.
“The higher the levy numbers go, the more chance it will not be approved,” said Hoover, who added, “We also need to do a better job of communicating our fiscal situation to the voters.”
High school bond issue
In December, SHP Leading Design presented three proposed options to Groveport Madison officials on what could be done with the more than 50-year-old high school, located at 4475 S. Hamilton Road:
•Maintain and renovate the existing building at a cost of $16 million spread out over a 16 to 20 year period using the $1 million available in the permanent improvement fund each year.
•Renovate and construct additions to the existing building at a cost of $37 million funded with local money and no Ohio Schools Facilities Commission funding.
•Build a new $62.9 million, 235,000 square foot high school using Ohio Schools Facilities Commission funding with the state paying $29.6 million and the local share paying $33.3 million. The old high school would be torn down and a new high school would be built where the current parking lot, two softball fields and tennis courts now stand. The softball fields and tennis courts would be moved to elsewhere on the property. The new building option could include either constructing a high school with a new auditorium and one, large gymnasium; or keeping the existing auditorium and gymnasium and then building a new high school with a second, larger gymnasium.
Todd Thackery of SHP stated the critical problems at the high school include:
•overcrowding with 1,400 students having only 900 lockers;
•five lunch periods, which disrupts class schedules as the cafeteria only seats 275 students at a time;
•having only one gymnasium that several boys and girls athletic teams, and other activities, must share, requiring some teams to hold practices until 9:30 p.m.
•the existing high school is 149,851 square feet and an additional 85,000 square feet is needed to house the current number of students;
•aging, rusting water lines must be replaced; and
•14 modular classrooms.
According to SHP, other areas needing to be addressed at the high school include replacing ceilings, replacing the roof, renovating restrooms, renovating labs, replacing interior and exterior doors, renovating fine arts rooms, and window replacements.
“Something has to be done with our aging facilities as they continue to degrade,” said Hoover.
Hoover said the state informed the district that the high school is in “such poor condition and is so overcrowded that replacing it would be a more cost effective solution than continuing to maintain and repair it.”
He said replacing the high school would allow millions of dollars from the budget that are now used for repairs and maintenance to be redirected for educational purposes.
High school principal Aric Thomas said the high school has continuing plumbing and electrical problems. He noted a main water pipe in the main hallway often breaks.
“Once the leak is fixed and the water pressure is brought back up, the pressure finds the next weak spot in the pipe and it bursts again,” said Thomas.
Voters in the Groveport Madison school district have not approved a bond issue for new buildings since the early 1970s.