|Messenger photo by Rachel Scofield|
|Superintendent Dr. Karen Mantia and Communications Director Amanda Morris of Pickerington Local Schools track election returns for the district’s 7.9 operating levy.|
Voters approved Pickerington Local Schools’ 7.9 mill levy that provides the local school district with $7.15 million a year – 8 percent of their total operating budget.
Unofficial results from Franklin and Fairfield counties show that 9,334 voters supported the levy while 6,082 opposed it.
Voters originally approved the levy in 2003 to cover expenses such as teachers, books, computers and buses. Currently the owner of a $100,000 home pays $242 per year for the levy, but their individual contribution continues to lessen as more people move into the district.
"On behalf of the board of education, the administration and the staff, I send my sincere thanks and appreciation to the entire community," Superintendent Dr. Karen Mantia said. "Your approval allows the district to continue with our team goal of being a high performance school district with high quality learning environments for every student without creating new taxes for residents. This is a win for our community and our students."
The district promised residents that if they approved the 5 mill replacement levy last November and the 7.9 mill renewal on March 4, that the schools would "continue to tighten our belt to stay off the ballot for instructional dollars as long as possible. That is our Contract with the Community," Mantia said.
Communications Director Amanda Morris clarified that while the goal is to remain off the ballot "as long as possible," the district expects to need a new levy in four years. The four year projection includes the current school year, therefore voters will most likely see the next levy during the 2010-11 school year.
Additionally, the contract only applies to operating levies, the district may place other issues such as bonds on the ballot sooner, Morris said.
Mantia described the renewal as "a win for our community and our students."
The Pickerington Board of Education approved multiple bids for the construction of three new schools.
For the combined middle school and elementary building at the intersection of Tollgate and Refugee roads, the bids totaled $22.9 million. The district had estimated the cost to be $24.6 million.
For the new elementary located within the Sycamore Creek subdivision, the bids totaled $11.1 million. The district had estimated the cost to be $11.4 million.
The winning bids arrived from a 11 different contractors specializing in areas such as masonry and electricity. Additional items including carpet and furniture have yet to be bid.
The district has not yet bid improvements to Refugee Road that include rerouting Tollgate Road to align with the entrance to the Huntington Hills subdivision.
"By mid-March we should begin to see the contractors setting up their staging areas. Since the site work has already been finished at the Sycamore Creek site and is nearing completion at the Tollgate Road site, the foundation work will be the first construction phase we see," Morris said.
Muddy conditions have hampered the Tollgate work. In January, the board approved nearly $73,000 to stabilize the soil with lime. However, the Tollgate project along with the one at Sycamore Creek, have remained on budget, Morris said.