MILLBURY — Before plans for a new elementary building are put before the Lake Local Schools community, new operating money will be on the ballot.
After Monday’s board of education meeting, President Tim Krugh said the board discussed both issues in a recent workshop.
“We’ve got to see how it dovetails with the elementary building,” Krugh said of a levy request. “We want to make sure we’re on sound operating footing before we actually pull the trigger on the elementary project.”
The board in August said that the combination of First Solar’s expansion, the expiration of a bond issue and state money may equal a new Lake Elementary building — with little pain for the taxpayer. There were preliminary plans to have the new school open in 2024.
“The middle school bond is about to be paid for, and rolling that over into a new bond issue, we may be able to do that project, with little or no additional tax,” Krugh said on Monday.
“But, first things first. We are going to continue down that road, to explore a new building. The community consensus is we need it. The support will be there.”
Krugh said that he expects new operating money will be on a 2021 ballot.
He said it’s been more than eight years since Lake leaders asked for new money. That was just after the June 2010 tornado hit the community, destroying the high school and Lake Township Administration Building and killing seven.
It took three tries on the ballot after the tornado and a slew of cuts, before a 6.75-mill levy was approved in August 2012. That levy was renewed and made continuous in November 2014.
The board had been getting ready to place a 5-mill or 6-mill levy — new operating money — on the November 2018 ballot, when First Solar announced its expansion into Lake. The school district is receiving $898,000 annually for 15 years, starting this year, due to a tax abatement agreement.
That is equal to just over 3 mills, Krugh said.
“You go from 2018 to 2021 and the numbers tell us we’re going to have to do something on the operating side,” Krugh said.
In August, he said that funding possibilities for a new elementary included using Ohio Facilities Construction Commission money, of about 45%. Krugh said that there are some guidelines that the board will have to follow when using this money, but the process has improved and is more flexible.
The board could also consider asking for the extension of the middle school bond issue, which will expire in 2024. In March 2016, the board refinanced the middle school bond, saving $705,000. The bond was also refinanced in 2007, with a $1 million savings.
The middle school was built in 2003. The board approved a $500,000 air conditioning project for it in 2016.
The high school was rebuilt in 2010 after the tornado.
The current elementary was built in 1960 and has 700 students in preschool through fourth grade. There is no air conditioning, classrooms are antiquated and the infrastructure is poor.
“There’s support for and a need for a new elementary building and we could probably get it done in a very frugal way,” Krugh said. “Obviously, it would have to be voted on.”