TONTOGANY – Otsego School District will save millions on interest payments by using no-interest bonds to
help finance its new elementary.
At its meeting Monday, the board of education learned from Treasurer Pam Harrington that the district’s
bond counsel had estimated the district will save $4.1 million in interest payments while repaying the
$4 million it received in federal stimulus funding. The payoff period is 15 years, she added.
The savings is based on estimates of interest paid had the district used traditional certificates of
participation and 30-year loans, Harrington explained.
"We get to use $4 million for free for 15 years. That’s pretty good," said board member
Elizabeth Gorski.
Superintendent Jim Garber also provided for the board an overview of House Bill 1, the budget bill, and
its potential impact on the district.
The bill includes revisions in pupil-teacher ratios as well as mandates for all-day kindergarten.
Over a six-year period, the ratio for grades K-3 would narrow to 19:1 in the 2010-11 school year, 17:1 in
school year 2012-13, and 15:1 in 2014-15 and thereafter.
Currently at Otsego, the ratio is 25:1; if the number of students is higher, an aide is added to the
classroom, Garber explained.
Additionally, each school district beginning in fall 2010 would have to offer all-day kindergarten.
Districts also would have to accommodate parents who want to enroll their children for half-day programs
only. However, the department of education has authority to grant a waiver to a district that cites lack
of space or funding.
Otsego now has the equivalent of 2.5 kindergarten teachers; with the changes, five would be needed,
Garber said.
If both new guidelines remain – there is a corrections bill already under way in Columbus – Otsego would
need to hire 13 new teachers at an estimated annual cost of $650,000, he told the board.
Just as pressing, Otsego in coming months will begin design plans for its new elementary building. The
state-mandated changes in classrooms sizes plus additional rooms possibly needed for all-day
kindergarten are in conflict with guidelines used by the Ohio School Facilities Commission.
Architects follow those guidelines, which include classroom square footage as well as number of
classrooms allowed based on student population, when designing facilities. The only direction given by
the legislature to OSFC is that it study the new demands.
While it has no immediate budget impact, the bill also reduces calamity days from five to three for the
2010-2011 school year.
As for HB 1, it has "a ton of great ideas, but show me the money," Garber stated. The governor
needs to address funding for the new stipulations, particularly when districts already are struggling to
operate, he added.
In other reports, Garber told the board the closing of Weston Elementary is saving the district closer to
$267,000 this year. His original estimate had been $200,000.