The South-Western City Schools Board of Education took preliminary steps at the Nov. 7 board meeting to place a $148 million “no new millage” bond request on the March ballot.
Board members decided, in a 4-1, vote to send the request to the auditor’s office for certification. Board member Jo Ellen Myers was the lone dissenter.
“The taxpayer has been asked to pay so much,” Myers said. “I just don’t think we need to do that. It comes down to money. Where are they going to get it from?”
In 2008, the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission (OSFC) provided a chance for the district to replace all the elementary schools, except Buckeye Woods and Darby Woods, replace all middle schools, except Jackson Middle School, replace Franklin Heights and renovate Grove City High School and Westland. The project would have cost $442 million. The OSFC would have paid nearly 50 percent of the cost, but the district could not secure local funds.
Voters rejected a combined bond issue and tax levy in 2008. The bond portion would have generated over $250 million to build new schools.
The new bond request would not increase current tax rates for residents. The district currently collects on two bond issues, one from 1993 and one from 1998. The 1993 bond will be paid off in 2013. The combination of the two issues and the debt payments would decrease in 2013, when the county auditor plans to lower the millage rate.
Property services supervisor, Mark Waller said the proposed bond issue would cover the local share of the OSFC project. Waller’s recommendation to the board calls for building 13 new elementary schools to replace most of those that currently stand and minor renovations for Buckeye Woods and Darby Woods. It also would replace Franklin Heights High School.
Board member Cathy Johnson raised questions about the number of new buildings.
“We currently have 16 elementary schools. You mention 13 new ones. The math doesn’t add up for me,” said Johnson.
“OSFC will not put matching funds into buildings with less than 350 (students),” Superintendent Bill Wise said. “We only have one building that does not have 350 in the building.”
With East Franklin being that building, the district is looking at a consolidation that would save the district even further financially.
Waller said the district has deferred $75 million in maintenance projects, such as asphalt and roof replacement this year. The annual allotment to pay for those projects range from $500,000 to $1 million. The $148 million bond issue would resolve $40 million of those projects if approved.
“I’m responsible for keeping the kids warm, safe and dry on a daily basis,” Waller said. “It’s a 24/7 job. We do it on a shoestring budget and we do it with a lot of luck. It’s a great time to build new schools without taxpayers paying anything more than what they currently pay. What a golden opportunity.”