By Dedra Cordle
Six years ago, voters approved a no-new millage bond issue that allowed the South-Western City Schools District to fund half of a $260 million state partnership project to replace 13 elementary buildings, renovate two others, and build a new high school. Now, the district is hoping voters will do the same come this fall, but at the middle school level.
On July 9, the board of education unanimously authorized the placement of a 1.86-mill bond issue for voters to consider on the Nov. 6 ballot. If approved, the district would enter into the second phase of the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission project to replace the four oldest middle schools and renovate Jackson Middle School and East Franklin Elementary School.
According to Superintendent Dr. Bill Wise, the 1.86-mill bond issue will be like the one proposed in 2012 – a no-new millage issue that would allow the district to continue to collect the same millage currently being collected for capital improvements.
“This no-new millage bond issue will allow us to rebuild four of our oldest middle schools (Brookpark, Finland, Norton and Pleasant View) and make safety improvements and technology upgrades at two others,” he said after the regular meeting.
The total cost of the second phase of the OFCC project is estimated to be $163 million, with the stipulation that the state would cover 50 percent of its core cost.
Treasurer Hugh Garside said that figure was important to note since it means that those paying state taxes will see state dollars going into their community.
“I think it is nice for taxpayers to know that something they pay into, they will be getting back in the form of this project,” he said.
The language that will likely be on the November ballot states that the bond will be issued in the amount of $93.4 million; shall bear interest at the estimated rate of 5.50 percent per annum; and shall be paid over a period not to exceed 38 years.
Garside said it does not typically take the district that long to pay back their debt, but added that he considers the 38 years to be a more flexible number.
“That is just in case interest rates rise over the years,” he said.
Both he and Wise later stated that they do expect interest rates to rise.
Board president Lee Schreiner said he voted in favor of the 1.86-mill bond issue to be placed on the ballot because repairs to the middle schools are much needed.
“It’s time,” he said, referring to the fact that most were built 50 years ago.
He also said that he was confident that the community will come out and support the passage of the bond issue.
Should the measure pass later this fall, Wise said the next steps would be to sell the bonds in February, begin the design phase, go to bid, make design modifications and start construction in the late summer or early fall of 2019.
Unlike phase one of the OFCC project, the second phase will not be broken down into building sections; instead, all four middle school replacement builds will begin at the same time.
At a previous community meeting in February discussing the new middle schools, Michael Dingeldein, the director of architecture and planning with Community Design Alliance, said it would take approximately 22 to 24 months to construct a middle school building.
In other news, the board approved the purchase of 11 additional buses to its fleet at a cost of $991,151. It was determined the fleet needed eight 84-passenger transit school buses, two 78-passenger transit school buses and one 48-passenger bus. The board also approved the purchase of 10 radio mounting systems for $2,567; 10 GPS systems for $804; and 11 digital video systems for $23,992.