SWCS combines bond issue and operating levy

The South-Western City School District’s Board of Education has already agreed to place a six-mill operating levy on the November ballot. Now, the district will add a bond issue to the mix.

At the July 14 meeting, the board of education unanimously voted to combine the operating levy with a 6.33-mill bond issue. The bond would generate approximately $261 million for the district to bring its facilities up to current design standards. The Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) would pay 47 percent of the building project, which would be around $205 million.

"We have the opportunity to make sure our children have the resources they need to be successful," explained board President Cathy Johnson. "This issue means a significant, critical, facilities upgrade, with the state paying almost half the cost, and operating funding to keep our programs in place through 2011."

The six-mill operating levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $189 annually. The owner of a $150,000 home would pay about $284 a year while the owner of a $200,000 home would pay $378. It would cost $473 a year for those owning a $250,000 home.

District Treasurer Hugh Garside said at a previous meeting that six mills is the least amount of millage that would carry the district through 2011. He explained by 2010, SWCS faces an $8.1 million deficit.

The operating portion of the levy would be to maintain educational programs currently offered by the district. According to the district, it has eliminated more than 260 positions over the past three years. It has also cut $13.8 million from its annual operating budget. South-Western ranks 14th in Franklin County per pupil expenditures.

Heidi Smith, a Grove City resident and parent of two children in the district said the board should reconsider combining the bond issue and the operating levy.

"The bond issue has a chance of passing, but that chance dramatically decreases if it’s placed with an operating levy," Smith said. "It’s too overwhelming to voters in hard economic times."

The bond issue portion of the issue would allow the district to replace 13 elementary schools and complete minor renovations to Buckeye Woods and Darby Woods.

Franklin Woods, Galloway Ridge, Holt Crossing and Park Street intermediate schools would get minor renovations. Hayes Intermediate would receive minor renovations, but would get a 37,000 square foot addition. Another intermediate school would receive an addition, but that school has not yet been determined.

The issue would allow the replacement of four middle schools. Minor renovations would be in the works for Jackson Middle School.

On the high school level, Franklin Heights would be replaced. Grove City and Westland would receive major renovations. Minor work would be done at Central Crossing and the Career Academy.

All modular units would be eliminated and space would be set aside for all-day everyday kindergarten.

"All of South-Western’s children would be in a new or renovated building, significantly improving their educational opportunities, eliminating trailer classrooms and creating equity across the district," said board Vice President Greg McCarty.

Garside was not available to give exact figures as to how much the bond issue portion would cost district residents. According to Dejong, the consulting firm hired by the OSFC to update the facilities plan, a six-mill bond issue would cost the owner of a $100,000 home approximately $184 a year. Those who own a $150,000 home would pay about $276 and and the owner of a $200,000 home would spend $368 annually.

The district should have figures at next month’s meeting.

South-Western is the sixth largest public school district in Ohio. It covers roughly 127 square miles and serves more than 21,000 students. Enrollment is expected to increase by 1,700 students in the next ten years.

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