CAMDEN — Voters in the Preble Shawnee Local School District will get a chance to either approve a ballot issue to construct two new school buildings or force school officials to come up with another plan to care for their current buildings.
The Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) approved over $29.2 million in state funding for school construction work in the district. The district is one of fifteen from across Ohio that received an offer of funding from the Commission, which oversees the state’s school facility renovation and construction program.
On May 2, voters will again be asked to approve a .75 percent income tax levy, and the issuance of bonds in the amount of $9 million, “for the purpose of paying part of the cost of constructing a new Junior/Senior High School and a new Camden Elementary, together with furnishings, equipment and site improvements, and all necessary appurtenances,” as well as a 2.5-mill tax levy throughout the life of the bonds to pay the interest on and retire the bonds.
The maximum maturity of the bonds is 37 years. The income tax would be imposed for 23 years, beginning Jan. 1, 2018, for the purpose of permanent improvements, according to ballot language.
According to school officials, the estimated local share is $7.29 per month for a $100,000 home in the Preble Shawnee School District. Additionally, the .75 percent income tax for permanent improvements will be used in conjunction with the bond issue to pay the cost of the proposed building projects.
Residents in the district shot down the same plan in November by 278 votes (2,316-2,038).
“This is a critical step in ensuring that the children in our district are in facilities that help support academic achievement. The students, parents, staff, and community members of Arrow Nation are extremely excited about the ability to return our hard earned tax dollars home from Columbus to the communities of Camden, Gratis, Lakengren, West Elkton, and our townships,” Preble Shawnee Superintendent Dr. Matt Bishop said. “Our district is in a unique position to build two 21st century schools without adding to the tax rate that residents were paying in 2015. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to build a bright future for our children.”
The district’s buildings were assessed recently and were determined that none are up to state standards. Based on the district’s valuation, the state has offered to pay 65 percent of the base costs of two new buildings if the district raises the remaining 35 percent.
The projected budget for construction of the two new schools is approximately $45 million. With the state paying nearly two-thirds of the base cost (65 percent), which translates into $29.2 million in state funding. Additionally, the district is going to spend $6.5 million in Locally Funded Initiatives (LFI). These LFI funds will cover things the state won’t, such as an auditorium, lengthening the gym floors to match area schools, and adding square footage to the schools to make them more than sufficient in size.
The funding, combined with $22.2 million from the district, would allow the district to move forward with the construction of a new Preble Shawnee Elementary, in Camden, and a new Preble Shawnee Middle/High School that will have the capacity for career-technical education, according to Bishop.
School districts must raise their local share of the project budget within 13 months before the state funding can be released. Districts that fail to acquire their funding in that period are considered “lapsed,” but can still participate in OSFC programs once they obtain local funding.
According to Bishop, Preble Shawnee’s facilities range from 35 years old to over 100 years old, and the district’s ability to financially and physically maintain them is becoming more and more difficult. The buildings in Preble Shawnee School District are inefficient to operate, technologically outdated, and poorly designed for modern education.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH.