PEMBERVILLE - Eastwood School District families were given a lot to consider Wednesday night.
|Construction continues on the the Home Depot distribution center in Troy Township. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
Should the district conduct a partial renovation on the elementary buildings in Luckey and Pemberville? What about an enhanced renovation, or building new village elementaries? Or even the construction of a central campus?
The ideas were presented Wednesday night during a town hall facilities discussion held in the Eastwood High School auditorium.
"This really is about what you guys want to do," Superintendent Brent Welker told a gathered crowd of about 55 people. He emphasized throughout the meeting that the district was concerned with seeking input from the district.
"The purpose of this evening is not to sell anybody anything," he said.
The bevy of possibilities comes from the fact that the district is to receive windfall tax abatement funds from a new Home Depot distribution center being built in Troy Township. The agreement will give Eastwood $675,000 per year beginning in 2015, continuing through 2029. Eastwood will receive more than $10.1 million over that time.
The district could borrow against the Home Depot funds, Welker said, providing them with a lump sum of approximately $7.5 million in cash.
Currently, Eastwood's state share of the costs for a qualifying Ohio School Facilities Commission project is 35 percent. Due to state requirements, no state funds would be available to renovate both the Luckey and Pemberville buildings.
Both elementaries are showing their age. The Luckey school was built in 1926, while the Pemberville elementary - which Welker said is in considerably better shape - dates back to 1936. Both are hampered by a number of issues, including the need for new roofs, restroom facilities problems, limited or nonexistent handicapped accessibility, limited classroom and cafeteria space, and HVAC, electrical and plumbing needs.
"The first thing you have to do is bring it up to code," Welker said of both buildings, noting that "the roof at Pemberville is the most needy in the district."
There are no plans for major renovations at either the high school or middle school at this time, though both of those buildings will need work in the next 10 to 15 years.
The first elementary option - that of a partial renovation of both the elementary buildings - would involve borrowing against the Home Depot funds. The work would be budgeted at roughly $9 million, using the full $7.5 million of the Home Depot funds and $1.5 million from the general fund.
The second option would involve either a more thorough renovation of the two elementaries, at a cost of $13.5 million, or the building of new elementaries in both villages, costing up to $24.5 million in total.
With the renovation option, a new 1.45-mill levy would be needed, costing taxpayers $50.75 per year on a $100,000 home. Home Depot funds and general fund dollars would be used to offset the costs. The new building option would require a 4.6-mill bond issue, costing $161 annually on a $100,000 home.
The third option, that of constructing a new building to form a central Eastwood campus, would cost about $18.5 million, with the state paying $6.7 million - leaving about $12 million for the district to cover.
This project is the only one which would qualify for OSFC funding, Welker said.
Under the central campus option, he said, the district could pay for the project without raising taxes, but Eastwood's debt would need to be lengthened.
Currently, Eastwood collects a total of 2.8 mills from a high school addition bond issue and a permanent improvement levy. To build a new campus facility, a 2.1-mill bond issue would need to be passed as early as 2014. The district would then start collecting the monies in 2015, and would stop collecting funds from the current 1.7-mill bond issue, making bond payments using $300,000 of the Home Depot monies. It would also reduce collections of the current PI levy from 1.1 mills to 0.5 mills starting in 2015. That action would actually slightly reduce the collections of current levies from 2.8 mills to 2.6 mills.
However, under this plan, district debt would be extended more than 20 years, from 2023 to 2044.
"I know you're looking at this and going 'this is too easy,'" said Welker. He noted that none of the projects would be possible without the Home Depot funds.
Answering a question from the audience, Welker said that the funding shift proposed in with the central campus option would lead to less PI money being collected that could be used for upkeep. However, he did say that much of those PI monies are already going toward the upkeep of the two aging elementaries. Welker noted, however, that the district will need to use some of the PI dollars to take care of its aging school bus fleet.
During Wednesday's presentation, he noted that with a central campus, there would be savings in some areas. Currently, 30 minutes per day of school time is being lost due to shuttling students at Luckey and Pemberville, the equivalent of 13 days of school lost annually. Staff savings could reach $110,000, and additional savings could also be realized.
A telephone survey of district residents regarding the three options is to be conducted by the Columbus-based firm of Wenzel and Associates starting on Dec. 3. The company conducted an earlier, related survey of residents late last month.
"We want you to answer the questions so we can understand and we can get data back," said Welker.
"We really need you to answer, and answer honestly. And share the information," he told the crowd.