By Linda Dillman
Canal Winchester Schools received good news from attorney Becky Princehorn that the district can use a $1 million holdover from a more-than 20-year-old project at the high school.
“The OSFC (Ohio School Facilities Commission) called this morning,” said Princehorn at the June 16 school board meeting. “They are going to permit you to use the entire $1 million for the high school. That’s huge. They don’t exactly know what to do with folks like you.”
Canal Winchester Schools Treasurer Joyce Boyer said the money is from the OSFC’s predecessor, the State Building Assistance Fund, and is in a district fund that accumulated over the past 23 years. The 1993 wing of the high school building—including the media center, offices and cafetorium—was built using Building Assistance funds and proceeds from a half-mill maintenance levy passed by voters in 1990.
“The ‘state releasing the money’ is that they are allowing the school district to spend it on the needs for the entire high school building, not just the 1993 wing of the high school,” said Boyer. “…the money cannot be spent for any other purpose other than the specified purpose of permanent improvement needs for the high school building. This means air conditioning needs, room updates/improvements, roof repairs, and so on. We are currently using these funds to renovate the clinic at the high school, for example.”
Boyer said money from the levy could only be used for permanent improvement items in the 1993 wing of the high school building. Since it was a brand new building, not many expenditures were necessary in the last 23 years.
“We did put in new windows – the old ones were leaking – removed the carpeting from the hallways and replaced it with tile, improved the entrance way into the building so that all visitors had to go directly to/through the office, just to name a few of the major expenditures,” said Boyer.
Princehorn also said the half-mill maintenance levy, passed by voters in 1990 in order to secure state building project funding and placed on the books in 1991, expires at the end of the year.
“You are at a fork in the road to decide what you want to do with the half-mill,” said Princehorn. “You could let it go off and wait a year, but then you would have to put it back on if you want to apply for future funding. Another approach would be to extend it. If you keep it, you would keep in place the state 12.5 percent rollback. The Ohio Department of Taxation said it would be a qualifying levy.”
If the district renews the levy, it would be used for permanent improvement needs for buildings constructed through the OSFC Expedited Local Partnership Project approved in 2001 and subsequently updated, including Winchester Trail, the middle school, and the second educational wing at the high school. To obtain funding or a percentage share from the state, the state building commission requires the district to pass a half-mill levy for 23 years.
According to Canal Winchester Schools Superintendent Jim Sotlar, coupled with the rollback, property owners now pay $12.74 per $100,000 in valuation. If the levy expires without renewal and the district goes back to the ballot for a maintenance levy for a future project, taxpayers would no longer be eligible for the rollback and the same levy would cost them approximately $17.50 per $100,000.
“You are the first district in Ohio to face this situation,” said Princehorn. “There is one catch. If you extend the half-mill, then you would need to enter into a project agreement with the OSFC in 2014 or 2015. The OSFC plan can be a portion of an overall plan (renovations, reconstructions, new build, roofs, etc.). You have to have something that could function at least at a modest size, not just something with three walls.”
School board members have until August to decide if they want to pursue renewal of the half-mill maintenance levy.