Eastwood puts bond on ballot
Written by By MARIE THOMAS Sentinel Education Editor
Friday, 07 August 2009 09:19
PEMBERVILLE - Eastwood voters have one last chance to have the state pay for nearly half the cost of a new elementary school.
The Eastwood Board of Education voted this morning to place a bond issue on the November ballot to fund the local share of the proposed $18 million project.
If the bond issue fails, the district could still receive future funding help from the Ohio School Facilities Commission, but not at the 47-percent share now offered.
According to county Auditor Michael Sibbersen, who attended the meeting, the tax issue before voters would be the equivalent of 2.64 mills.
According to Superintendent Brent Welker, the cost to a taxpayer with a home assessed at $100,000 would be $71.25 a year.
The new tax, though, would not be collected until January 2012.
"I think we need to buy the taxpayers two years to get out of this recession," Welker told the board.
A 0.75-mill permanent improvement tax will be included in the ballot language for the bond issue; that tax is required by OSFC for its projects and would start collection in January 2010.
Voters also will see a request to renew a five-year, 2-mill permanent improvement tax. However, if the bond issue is approved, the board will repeal collection of that PI tax and allow it to expire at the end of this year.
According to Welker, if both issues are approved in November, the net increase in cost to taxpayers will be 2.3 mills.
If the bond issue fails, the district still will need an estimated $33,000 collected annually from that 2-mill PI tax to pay for facility improvements and upgrades throughout the district.
Board member Roger Bostdorff summarized the plan by stating that for $70 a year, taxpayers can help the district resolve the issues of the old elementary buildings and consolidate onto one campus.
Once completed, the new K-5 building combined with closure of the three elementaries is expected to save the district $300,000 annually in operating and personnel costs.
Taxpayers also will benefit from Eastwood receiving at least $2.47 million in zero-interest qualified school construction bonds, issued through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The district has just one shot, though, at those funds: It must pass its local share of the building project in November to receive the money. If it fails to do so, the $2.47 million will be returned to the state and reallocated to another district.
Depending on how other districts around the state do on their ballot issues in November - a high failure rate means the $100 million in available funds will be split between fewer schools - Eastwood could receive as much as $5.8 million in the no-interest bonds, according to Welker.
Because of all the variables, the 2.64 mills on the ballot "is a worst-case scenario for taxpayers," he stated.
If voters approve the plan, he added, the district could be breaking ground in spring 2011 for the new school, which would be situated east of the middle school on Sugar Ridge Road.
If the issue fails, Eastwood would become a lapsed district with OSFC. A new assessment of needs and costs likely would increase the local share 3 percent or 4 percent. The local share is currently 53 percent, or about $10.4 million.
"I think at that point the voters will have clearly told us they don't want a new K-5," Welker said.
In November 2008, a 5.8-mill bond issue for a new K-8 building failed at the polls, and in March this year the board pulled off the spring ballot a planned 3.2-mill request for a K-5 facility because of the poor economic conditions.
Of big concern, too, is whether funding through OSFC for construction projects will still be there in the next couple years, if Eastwood decides to try again, as the state struggles to maintain a balanced budget.
Also at the meeting, the board approved a contract with Brewer Garrett Company, Cleveland, for energy-conservation projects in the district.
The total cost varies, depending on the outcome at the polls in November. Lighting projects at Webster, Luckey and Pemberville elementaries totaling about $42,000 will not be done if the bond issue passes in November, since those buildings eventually will be shuttered. Planned either way are projects including a new boiler at the high school as well as electrical work and building-automation projects. The estimated cost for all projects, including the elementary lighting, is just over $738,000.
Energy savings would pay for the projects, as well as create a positive cash flow for the district, according to Welker.