|Eastwood says levy & bond is best deal|
|Written by By MARIE THOMAS Sentinel Education Editor|
|Friday, 23 October 2009 13:47|
PEMBERVILLE — The message going out to Eastwood School District voters is the current funding package for a new school is the best they’ll ever get.
“This is the best bang for our buck we’ll ever have,” according to Pemberville resident Phillip Farmer, who helped provide information and answer questions at a community levy forum held Monday at the middle school.
Given the money being offered from the state and the current bond market, “this is a significant deal,” he told the audience of about 50 community members and district personnel.
Eastwood is asking voters to support two separate issues on Nov. 3. One is for the renewal of a 2-mill permanent improvement levy, which has been used for building and equipment maintenance. That levy currently is collected at the equivalent of 1.1 mills.
The second request is for a 2.64-mill bond issue to construct a new elementary on the central campus. It is packaged with a 0.75-mill continuing permanent improvement tax, part of a mandate from the state to guarantee funds will be available to maintain the new school.
It is critical, according to Superintendent Brent Welker, that voters support both issues — especially as the $8.5 million being offered from the state will no longer be available if the bond issue fails.
Welker added that with passage of both issues, the school board will allow the 2-mill PI tax to expire at the end of this year. But if the bond issue fails, the district still will need the estimated $265,000 collected annually from that 2-mill tax to pay for facility improvements and upgrades throughout the district.
The net increase to taxpayers with the passage of both issues is 2.3 mills, according to Welker.
That amount is a worst-case scenario for voters, given variables in the amount of federal low-interest bonds offered to the district, he explained.
With a nod to the continued depressed economy, the board has decided to hold off collection on the bond issue until February 2012.
Eastwood’s hope is to consolidate Webster, Luckey and Pemberville elementaries into one building on the Sugar Ridge Road campus, where the middle school and high school already are situated.
The Ohio School Facilities Commission is providing $8.5 million toward the project’s estimated $18 million cost.
This is Eastwood’s second attempt at getting voters to support a bond issue for a new school. A more costly issue failed in November 2008, and due to poor economic conditions, the board pulled a request off the spring ballot.
Helping lower the costs this time is the offer of $2.4 million in low-interest Qualified School Construction Bonds, funded through federal stimulus dollars. Those funds, too, are a one-shot opportunity; failure of the bond issue would send the federal funds back into a pool to be redistributed to other school districts.
Going from three elementaries to one is expected to save the district $350,000 each year in operating costs — the equivalent of 1.3 mills in taxes. A new school also would allow for the addition of all-day kindergarten as well as state-of-the-art technology, and the elimination of shuttles thus allowing another 20 to 30 minutes of instructional time each day.
Farmer, who has two children at Pemberville and is a 1987 Eastwood graduate, said he asked himself two questions when considering whether to support the levy: How has the district been managed, and how has taxpayers’ money been managed. He said he was pleased with the answers to both.
“I feel like they would do a great job with a new K-5 building,” he stated.
As for supporting the continued operation of three elementary buildings: “It just doesn’t make sense.”
If voters approve the plan, the district could be breaking ground in spring 2011 for the new school, which would be situated east of the middle school.
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.
Another 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.
On the Net:
Eastwood Levy Information — www.eastwood.k12.oh.us/levy/
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