Groveport Madison considers levy; bond issue

Voters in the Groveport Madison Local School District could see an operating levy on the ballot in November and possibly a bond issue some time in 2009.

Speaking at the July 9 Groveport Madison Board of Education meeting, and citing the district’s financial and building needs, Superintendent Scott McKenzie and Treasurer Anthony Swartz recommended the board pursue placing a five year, 8 mill replacement emergency operating levy on the Nov. 4 ballot. McKenzie and Swartz then said the board should also consider placing a 6 mill bond issue for new buildings and renovations on the ballot in 2009.

Levy

The replacement levy would replace the existing three year, emergency renewal levy, which was first passed in 1997 and would expire Dec. 31, 2009 if not renewed.

According to Swartz, this existing levy was designed to generate $4.5 million annually for the district and originally assessed homeowners 9.5 mills, but that has decreased over the years as 5.46 mills now generate the same amount of money because, as values drop, the millage changes to generate the same amount of revenue.

"We have had no increase in property tax revenue from this levy since 1997," said Swartz.

According to Swartz, the proposed 8 mill levy would generate approximately $6.4 million a year, which is $1.9 million more per year than the existing levy. It would cost the owner of a $150,000 home an additional $114 annually.

McKenzie said, if the proposed 8 mill, five year replacement levy would pass, it would mean the district would not have to come back to the voters as often for approval of levy funding. He added that after five years the voters would still have the chance to reject the levy "if things are not going the way they should in the district."

The additional revenue would help the district deal with the increasing costs of operations as well as help offset the approximately $768,000 the district has to pay back to the state as a result of the state’s miscalculations of Groveport Madison’s share of state school funding.

McKenzie noted going with the levy in 2008 "will build a solid foundation for us to discuss a bond issue for facilities" in 2009. "The levy will set the stage to pass a bond issue in 2009 by taking care of our monetary needs before asking for new buildings. Without the levy we cannot discuss new buildings or major facility projects."

McKenzie added that, if the levy fails in 2008, the district would still have time to come back to the voters before the existing levy expires in 2009.

"There’s no way we can move forward or maintain if a levy doesn’t pass, passage is critical," said Swartz.

Bond issue and the OSFC

Monies from the proposed 6 mill bond issue would be used for new buildings, site preparations, equipping buildings, infrastructure, and renovations.

"…There is money sitting in the bank with our name on it," said McKenzie, noting that the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission (OSFC) has proposed one $140 million building scenario where the state would provide $62 million of the funding.

Earlier this summer, Eugene Chipiga, OSFC  senior planning manager, presented drafts of two master plan building options for the district, as well as an assessment of the district’s 10 school buildings.

"If the cost to renovate a building is greater than two thirds (66 percent) of the cost to replace it, then it is recommended the building be demolished and a new school be built," said Chipiga. "It’s more expensive to renovate than to rebuild."

Based on the OSFC’s assessment, the district’s renovate/replace percentages are as follows: Asbury, 64 percent; Dunloe, 70 percent; Glendening, 70 percent; Groveport Elementary, 103 percent; Madison, 74 percent; Sedalia, 57 percent; Middle School North, 66 percent; Middle School South, 65 percent; Junior High, 77 percent; High School, 64 percent.

Chipiga said the district could consider demolishing and then rebuilding on the same site, or, choose another site for new schools.

"If you find another site, you don’t have to demolish a building," said Chipiga.

OSFC proposed plan – option 1

This option projects a $134 million cost to perform the following:

•Abate (which means controlling asbestos and other hazardous building materials) and demolish Dunloe, Glendening, Groveport,  and Madison elementaries and also the junior high;

•Renovate and add to Asbury;

•Renovate Sedalia;

•Renovate and add to Middle School North and Middle School South;

•Renovate and add to the high school so it could house 1,823 students; and

•Build two new elementary schools that each could house around 985 students.

OSFC proposed plan – option 2

This option projects a $140 million cost to perform the following:

•Abate and demolish Dunloe, Glendening, Groveport, and Madison elementaries as well as the junior high;

•Renovate and add to Asbury;

•Renovate Sedalia;

•Renovate and add to Middle School North and Middle School South;

•Renovate and add to the high school to house 837 students;

•Build an additional new high school that would house 986 students;

•Build four new elementaries that would house around 492 students each.

Swartz noted that the construction could be segmented with staggered millage rates so, as a project comes on board, the money for it would, too. He also said the district could take the OSFC money up front, invest it until it’s needed, and gain earnings that could be used for unforeseen construction needs.

"A comprehensive bond issue, in some way, will have a positive effect on virtually every student in the district," said McKenzie. "While there are many items that concern me about the OSFC report, I remember that it is a place to start and to begin to seriously discuss the needs of our community’s schools."

Board viewpoints

Board member John Kershner, while agreeing there is an urgency to the district’s financial and facilities issues, said he felt McKenzie’s and Swartz’s presentation "hit us (the board) cold," adding he felt the board should have been included in the planning of the levy and bond issue recommendations.

Board member Duane Dailey questioned the need for demolishing school buildings saying it "was not realistic" and that old school buildings, like old houses, can fulfill their role if properly maintained.

Board President Dr. Naomi Sealey stated, "It’s about the kids and what is needed."

Next steps

To place a levy on the Nov. 4 ballot, the board must approve a resolution of necessity and forward it to the county auditor by Aug. 15. The deadline for filing to place the levy on the ballot is Aug. 21. The board will discuss the issuef further at future meetings.

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