By Rick Palsgrove
Groveport Madison Schools officials are looking to maintain the district’s current financial stability as well as plan for the next phase of new school building construction.
At a Groveport Madison Board of Education work session on Oct. 24, the board directed Superintendent Garilee Ogden and Treasurer John Walsh to begin preparations to place a 6.68 mill permanent continuing operating levy combined with a bond issue of a yet to be determined amount to fund potential new school buildings on the May 2019 ballot.
The current five year 6.68 mill levy was passed in May 2014 and is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2019. Walsh stated the levy needs to be renewed in 2019 for collection to continue in 2020 to maintain fiscal stability for the district.
At the work session Walsh said if the levy fails in May the district would not “be destitute in 2020,” but the district’s revenue would fall dramatically after that year.
Board member Mary Tedrow said she did not like the idea of a permanent continuing levy because she feels levys with a set term of years make the district accountable to the voters by requiring the district to show what it has accomplished.
However, the remaining board members all favored a continuing permanent levy.
“Why keep going back to the ballot for renewals when we could lose and then be forced to consider budget cuts?” asked board member Libby Gray.
Added Board President Bryan Shoemaker, “We don’t want to go backwards, we want to go forward. We’ve got to make sure we have operating money.”
To place the levy and bond issue on the May 2019 ballot, the board must approve two resolutions in January declaring its intentions and file for the ballot by Feb. 6, 2019.
Walsh also noted that the district most likely would still need new money in a few years and would have to place an operating levy on the 2023 ballot. If the 2019 levy is approved, the 2023 levy could be for a smaller amount.
The levy will be combined with a bond issue of a yet to be determined amount.
The bond issue would provide funding, coupled with funding from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, to build new schools to replace the district’s six elementary schools and three middle schools.
If a bond issue is approved, the OFCC would provide 53 percent of the funding and the district would fund 47 percent of the proposed projects. Groveport Madison is currently 34th on the OFCC’s priority list for funding.
The board is considering several new building configuration options including:
•One Pre-K through grade 3 elementary school; one grades 4-6 elementary; and one grades 6-8 middle school. Co-funded total cost estimated at $117.8 million with the district’s share at $55.3 million.
•Three Pre-K through grade 8 elementary/middle schools. Co-funded total cost estimated at $117.8 million with the district’s share at $55.3 million.
•Four Pre-K through grade 8 elementary/middle schools. Co-funded total cost estimated at $122.4 million with the district’s share at $57.5 million.
•Five Pre-K through grade 5 elementaries and two grades 6-8 middle schools. Co-funded total cost estimated at $131.5 million with the district’s share at $61.8 million.
•Four Pre-K through grade 5 elementaries and two grades 6-8 middle schools. Co-funded total cost estimated at $126.8 million with the district’s share at $59.6 million.
According to district officials, an example of the finances for the various options is that a three building option would require an approximate 3.25 mills in additional taxes, generate $55 million spread over 38 years of collection, and create an approximate cost of $112 in additional taxes per $100,000 of a home’s taxable value.
The district plans to hold public forums in the coming weeks to get feedback from the community regarding which building option to pursue for the bond issue.
Other decisions that must be made regarding the bond issue include obtaining updated enrollment projections, land purchases, developing a plan for sequenced construction using swing spaces, and realigning attendance boundaries.
“We are growing,” said Ogden. “We’re up 400 students at the high school alone. We need to look where our growth is and determine the best sites for new schools.”
She noted the Middle School North/Sedalia Elementary site and the Middle School South/Glendening Elementary site are large land sites the district already owns.
Ogden noted two other problems for the district. One is that the district is facing an estimated $3 million in roof repairs for its school buildings across the district.
“Some of these have an immediate need,” said Ogden, noting Middle School Central and Sedalia Elementary.
Another issue to be addressed is the construction of a four classroom addition to the recently completed new high school. She said the school’s enrollment is at 1,808. The OFCC’s projected enrollment for the school when it was constructed was 1,439. Ogden said the construction of the addition would be funded by existing money generated from savings from the original high school construction project.