Pickerington Schools get $50 million from state

Pickerington Local Schools will receive approximately $50 million in state money to renovate Central High School, Ridgeview Junior High and Fairfield, Pickerington and Violet elementary schools.

The Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) follows a formula to select school districts to fund based on financial need. Pickerington qualified for the state to split costs 50-50, according to OSFC spokesperson Rick Savors.

Originally, the state did not agree to pay its portion until Pickerington obtained all of its contribution. In a 2007 meeting, former Superintendent Dr. Robert Thiede estimated Pickerington’s half would cost $90 million.

The PLSD successfully lobbied the state government to change the rules to allow the money to be segmented.

In other words, Pickerington could not pass one tax issue to cover its entire share of the Master Plan building expenses, but it did pass a bond in November 2006 that generated $59.9 million to build three schools – Sycamore Creek Elementary, Toll Gate Middle and Toll Gate Elementary.

Through the new segmentation legislation (dubbed the Pickerington Plan by state lawmakers), PLSD will receive $50 million from the state to match what it paid to build the schools.

The state would not match the entire $59.9 million because Pickerington’s portion included land acquisition and athletic fields. The OSFC does not reimburse those types of expenses, PLSD facilities manager Vince Utterback said.

The state will approve the funds in November.

Utterback said the money would be used to bring the older buildings to code. This would include sprinkler systems, egress lighting, security systems and heating/air conditioning systems.

The state funds cannot be used for athletic facilities such as a new stadium for Central.

The improvements to the inside of the buildings "will lift Ridgeview and Central past Lakeview and North," board president Wes Monhollen said. "The community can be proud of this accomplishment. The district will have the finest facilities in Central Ohio when (the master plan) is complete. This is the best news I have had in the eight years I’ve been on the board."

To receive the money, the state required that the district extend a 0.5 mil levy to 10 years.

Monhollen said the district would ask taxpayers for operating dollars in 2010.

With the Pickerington Plan of segmented funding "we have helped other districts" with similar situations, board member Lisa Reade said.

The next school board meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Sept. 22 in the auditorium of Heritage Elementary.

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