Reynoldsburg a step closer to putting bond issue on ballot

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The Reynoldsburg school board Nov. 20 took the next-to-last step to get a bond issue on the March ballot, and heard warnings of possible budget cuts from its outgoing superintendent.

The board passed a resolution to be forwarded to the state tax commissioner certifying the need to place a $56 million bond issue on the ballot for school construction and renovations.

The final vote, to send the issue to the board of elections for the March 4 ballot, is scheduled to take place at a special meeting Dec. 6 at 5 p.m.

Passage is needed to receive another $55 million from the Ohio School Facilities Commission for the projects, which include construction of a second high school and a seventh elementary building.

"This will bring back $55 million of the taxpayers’ money to Reynoldsburg," commented Assistant Superintendent Stephen Dackin, who will take over as superintendent with the retirement of Richard Ross Jan. 1.

Voters rejected a similar bond issue last year, but the picture has improved since then, Dackin noted.

At that time the district had been told "the check’s in the mail" by the OSFC chairman, Dackin recalled.

The chairman has now assured Reynoldsburg officials that "the check’s in the bank" and only awaits a positive vote from residents on the local share.

Officials have argued that a second high school, slated to be built, along with the elementary building, on 69 acres at Summit and Refugee roads, is needed to alleviate crowding.

Board President Cheryl Max pointed out that "there is a lot more to be done with the bond issue than building the second high school. I don’t want that to get lost in the shuffle."

The funds would also used for $12.4 million in renovations to the existing high school; $8 million at Baldwin Road Junior High; $3.2 million at French Run Elementary; $5.4 million at Herbert Mills Elementary; $5.2 million at Rose Hill Elementary; and $1.2 million at Taylor Road Elementary.

The projects would be the culmination of an extensive building program, with state assistance, that has included the construction of Waggoner Road junior high and middle schools, and Slate Ridge Elementary, as well as renovations and additions at Hannah Ashton Middle School.

The district has opened the new buildings while holding its spending down, according to Ross, but that can’t go on forever.

He said that during the last fiscal year, the district spent less than the year before, even after opening new buildings.

This year the district is trying to hold growth in operating expenses to 3 percent.

State funding, which accounts for more than half of the district’s revenue, has stayed flat for the fourth year in a row, Ross said.

And the board has gone 10 years without asking residents for additional taxes for operating funds, he added, but will need to place an issue on the ballot next year or face budget cuts.

Ross anticipates a budget gap of between $1 million and $1.5 million, and he said the board needs to look at possible budget reductions to close that gap.

The recommendations should be broad enough to provide the board with choices of where to cut, Ross said.

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