NORTHWOOD - Residents here soon will have to decide whether to use state funds to help build new facilities, or maintain what they have with just local money.
A community meeting was held Wednesday to discuss the options facing the Northwood School District on its chance to use Ohio School Facilities Commission funds to help build new schools.
The state is willing to pay for 35 percent of any plan approved by both the local board and OSFC.
The remaining 65 percent, plus any locally funding initiatives, would be up to district taxpayers.
The state started the funding program in 1997; Northwood ranks 397 on the list of 612 districts in Ohio. Already, Elmwood, North Baltimore, Otsego and Lakota have used OSFC monies to build new schools.
The district has several options, each differing in scope and work, with expected differences in cost:
• a new PK-12 building: It would be built to hold 922 students, be approximately 130,000 square feet, and cost $28.9 million. The cost to demolish and have asbestos abatement of all existing school buildings is $3.2 million. The total cost is $32.1 million, with the local share being $20.8 million, or 7.2 to 8.0 mills of property tax.
• convert the high school, which now holds grades 7-12, to a PK-12 building: The estimate is $28.3 million in renovation costs and building on an additional 47,000 square feet, plus $2 million in demolition and abatement of the other buildings. The total cost is $30.3 million, with the local share $20.2 million, which includes the $1.3 million needed to renovate the auditorium. The cost to taxpayers would be 7.0 to 7.7 mills of property tax.
• build a new PK-6 building and renovate the high school: The estimate is $16 million to renovate the existing building plus $14 million for a new school, and $1.9 million to demolish and abate all other school buildings. The total cost is $31.9 million; the local share of $21.5 million includes $2.2 million to renovate the auditorium and other spaces. Locally, it would cost a taxpayer 7.4 to 8.2 mill.
• build a new PK-6 building, do nothing to the high school: The new school would house 483 students and be 60,000 square feet. The approximate cost would be $14 million plus $1.9 million to demolish and abate the Northwood, Olney and Lark elementaries. The local share is $10.3 million, or 3.6 to 4.0 mills.
Officials at the meeting stated all numbers are estimates, and are not the final figures.
"No decision has been made at this point," stressed schools Superintendent Greg Clark.
But, he added, "Doing nothing is not an option. The reality is not if, but when, where and how we go about this."
Two rules OSFC follows is whether the renovation of an existing school will total at least two-thirds the cost of building new, and any new structure needs to house at least 350 students.
The high school, built in 1993, hits 66 percent of the renovation to new ratio. Northwood Elementary, the former middle school, built in 1939 but added on in 1996, hits 61 percent on the renovation/new ratio, mostly because the new portion doesn't need as much work. Olney Elementary, built in 1955 with a 1997 addition, hits 74 percent on the renovation/new ratio. Lark Elementary, built in 1955 with a 1963 addition, has a 72 percent renovation/new ratio.
The district won't replace all three elementaries.
The district currently has 937 students, so meeting the 350 rule on any new buildings will not be an issue.
Three of the schools currently sit on the same site, at the corner of Lemoyne and Woodville roads. But OSFC isn't happy with the site as an option to build a new school upon. The state considers the site "industrial" and cites its proximity to Interstate 280 to the west, an underground petroleum pipeline to the east and the railroad tracks to the south.
Clark told the crowd he'd prefer to place a new campus where more students could walk to school. He suggested the east side of the district, but said he hasn't talked to anyone about land purchases.
The district, though, is aware of what land is available.
"The plat map has been our friend," said Denise Niese, school board president.
"There is vacant property in town, but does the owner want to sell it," Clark said.
OSFC will not pay for athletic fields, an auditorium, an oversized gym, a bus and maintenance building, and any land purchased for the project.
The lack of an auditorium and large gym, which the district now has, had some suggesting keep those two parts of the high school and tear down the rest. Keeping the sports complex at the current site also was preferred.
Doug Rich, project manager with Fanning Howey school architects, which led Wednesday's discussion, said they needed to press OSFC to decide whether the current site was appropriate to build upon. The current site is 46 acres; OSFC is suggesting 44 acres for a new site.
The Fanning Howey team offered hand-held devices to help vote on questions, such as audience members consideration for a new Pk-12 building (30 percent strongly agreed and 17 percent strongly disagreed), converting the high school to a PK-12 building (9 percent strongly agreed and 27 percent strongly disagreed), building a new PK-6 building and renovating the high school (17 percent strongly agreed and 21 percent strongly disagreed) and only building a new PK-6 building (7 percent strongly agreed and 27 percent strongly disagreed). Fifty-nine percent strongly rejected the idea of not using OSFC funds; 59 percent also agreed that if the district builds a new high school, local funds should be used to maintain the auditorium and gymnasium at the existing school.
Thirty-one percent liked the idea of a property tax to pay for the project, 21 percent preferred an income tax, and 49 percent would like to see a combination of the two.
The message was, the team was looking for a consensus, not unanimity.
Clark said the school board should have its master plan in place and ready to vote on it at its June meeting. That would give officials time, if the choice is made to move forward, to promote a levy request in November.