Northwood seeks input on levies for school
Written by MARIE THOMAS BAIRD Sentinel Education Editor
Wednesday, 11 December 2013 11:15
NORTHWOOD — There were only 20 people there, but overwhelmingly they supported Northwood Schools trying again in May to pass tax issues for a new school.
The board of education held a community meeting Tuesday to learn how voters feel about going back to the ballot in May for support for $21.46 million in tax dollars to build a new preK-12 school on the Lemoyne Road campus.
The issues failed by two votes in November.
The Ohio Schools Facilities Commission would pay 35 percent of the $33.02 million cost of the new school, or $11.55 million.
Northwood voters were asked in November to support a combined 0.25-percent earned income tax and a 4.9-mill property tax. The taxes would have paid for a new 130,000-square-foot school that would have opened in 2016.
The plan also called for Olney Elementary, Lark Elementary and Northwood Elementary to be torn down, and just the gymnasium and auditorium saved of the high school.
Fanning Howey Associates representatives led Tuesday’s meeting, offering a recap of all the meetings and decisions that were made in the year leading up to the vote. They offered hand-held devices to vote on two questions: Should the district try for a combined levy again in May, and should the district try for a property tax only, at about 6.9 mills, instead.
Eighty-six percent of those in attendance favored the first question and just 5 percent supported the second.
The results are pretty clear on what the district should do, said Superintendent Greg Clark.
“It’s almost a no-brainer to return to the ballot,” said Joe DeLuca of Fanning Howey.
But Red Irving, who has lived 50-plus years in Northwood, wanted to know when the district will go back to the ballot to give teachers raises, and whether the board got a quote on the cost of repairing the high school.
Clark said the district’s budget is in the black for the next five years, so he does not foresee the need for new revenue in the immediate future.
And the district did not get repair quotes, but OSFC has determined the school, built in 1993, hits 66 percent of the renovation-to-new ratio.
OSFC won’t renovate an existing school if it will cost more than two-thirds the cost of building new.
“I praise what you’re trying to do ... but for me I just can’t do it now,” Irving said.
Steve Wilczynski, with Fanning Howey, said an exceedingly low percentage of OSFC projects have gone over budget, and none by his firm.
“It’s silly if we don’t try it again,” said Kris James, a teacher at the high school and Northwood resident.
Education is competitive, and open enrollment allows students to choose to go elsewhere.
“If we want to be attractive to other students as well as our own, we need to be competitive.”
Audrey Caligiuri told the board it has to convince voters of its trustworthiness.
The district said years ago if voters passed a levy, Lark Elementary would stay open. But that school was closed a year after the levy was approved.
Voters remember that, she said, and she told board members they need to earn that trust and respect back.
Angelina Scholl expressed concern over the actual ballot language, and said community outreach would be appreciated.
School board President Denise Niese got applause when she challenged city officials to step up and help this community improve its schools.
City Administrator Bob Anderson was in the audience.
If the board does decide to try again at the polls, it will have to make its decision by Feb. 5, the deadline to file with the county’s board of elections.
OSFC started the new-school 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.