Shawnee moving forward with building project

By Eddie Mowen Jr. -

CAMDEN — Preble Shawnee’s Board of Education members are gathering input from the community and getting closer to deciding on a building proposal to present to taxpayers in the November election.

The district has been eligible for funds from the Ohio School Facilities Commission for a number of years.

A special meeting of the board was held Thursday, April 7. The architecture firm (SHP Leading Design) hired by the board to draw up building plans was in attendance to help community members better understand the district’s current situation, as well as answer any questions.

Board president Candi Turpin told those in attendance the board welcomed the community’s input with ideas and concerns.

“The goal of tonight is to lay out for you the opportunity that’s been made available to the district,” Jeff Parker of SHP said. “We want to clear up as many question marks as we can tonight.”

The board has been presented with a number of options, but the OSFC will only accept a plan which includes abating/demolishing West Elkton School, partial demolition, renovation, and an addition to Camden Elementary to house grades PK-5, and renovations to the junior/senior high to house grades 6-12.

The project will bring the buildings up to code, according to the state.

Voters will be asked to approve a 2.5-mil property tax to cover the required local share.

“That’s the exact millage that just rolled off (the) tax bills this year,” Shawnee Treasurer Mollie Hansel said. “That was the millage that was passed several years ago when we did the addition to Camden Elementary and West Elkton. We were able to collect enough money to pay those bonds off early. Plus, we refinanced them one time to lower the cost so we were able to let that millage roll off the books about six or seven years early.”

She said the rest of the money would come from a .75 percent income tax that voters are asked to renew every five years to help with current expenses.

“We would like to take that .75 percent income tax and make it a 23-year tax just to fund the rest of the money we need to do the project,” she said.

The board needs to present its plan to the OSFC by May. The next board of education meeting is scheduled for Thursday, April 21, at 7 p.m.

The Ohio School Facilities Commission doesn’t accept a single-campus plan as a viable option for the funding for which the district is eligible. In order to move forward with a single-campus plan, the community would have to fund the entire project, which would total in excess of $40 million.

Instead, the board is looking to accept the OSFC funding, which would cost only about 35 percent of the project, with the state’s share covering 65 percent.

The master plan is driven by enrollment projections.

Preble Shawnee ranks 224 out of 613 public schools in Ohio and is eligible for funding from the OSFC. Those rankings are based on a school district’s wealth. The district has been on the list to receive funds for a number of years, but the board has opted not to go to voters until now. Last year, the board voted 3-2 not to move forward.

Since two new board members have been elected, the board, at its January meeting, decided it wanted to move forward and let the voters decide whether to do the upgrades or not.

If the levy passes, it could take up to four years to complete the renovations. If it fails, money for repairs to all three buildings in the district will come out of the general fund. Currently, there is about a $12 million carry-over which the board is hoping to use on salaries for employees and locally funded initiatives (LFIs) for the project, according to comments made at the meeting.

By Eddie Mowen Jr.

Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH

Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH