CAMDEN — A community forum held last Wednesday, Aug. 31, aimed to help Preble Shawnee Local School District residents understand the need for new school buildings, and the bond issue they’ll see on the Nov. 8 election ballot.
In an introduction on the district’s website, Superintendent Dr. Matt Bishop reiterated the Ohio School Facilities Commission has approved over $29.2 million in state funding for school construction work in the district.
If approved, it is estimated the bond issue will cost the owner of a home valued at $75,000 approximately $15.63 per month. There is also a .75 percent income tax for permanent improvements which will be used in conjunction with the bond issue to pay the cost of those improvements. The bonds would be repaid in 37 years, and the income tax collected for 23 years.
According to school officials, what the district is asking for will bring two new schools — at the same tax rate.
“In 2015, district residents paid 2.5 mills in property taxes and .75 percent in income taxes. At the end of 2015, that property tax rolled off the books and of residents’ tax bills. At the end of the 2016 calendar year, the 75 percent income tax will end,” the presentation noted. “We are simply asking voters to vote back in the 2.5 mill property tax that rolled off last year and vote back in the .75 percent income tax that will end on Jan. 1.
“This is a great opportunity to keep our tax rates the same and repurpose those tax dollars to leverage two buildings.”
“The district is one of 15 from across Ohio that received an offer of funding from the commission, which oversees the state’s school facility renovation and construction program,” Bishop wrote.
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, according to information presented.
“Our buildings were assessed recently and were determined that none are up to state standards. Based on our district’s valuation, the state has offered to pay 65 percent of the costs of two new buildings if the district raises the remaining 35 percent,” Bishop said.
“The funding, combined with $22.2 million from our district, will allow us to move forward with the construction of a new Preble Shawnee Elementary and a new Preble Shawnee Middle/High School that will have the capacity for career-technical education.”
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.
The proposed building plan calls for passage of a bond issue on Nov. 8, which would allow the district to hire an architecture firm. Architects would begin designing the new buildings in early 2017, and construction plans would be prepared and bidding occur in early 2018. Construction would then begin after school is dismissed in the spring of 2018, with completion of the new buildings projected to be in time for the opening of the 2019-20 academic year.
According to school officials, while Preble Shawnee Elementary is being constructed at the site of the current Camden Elementary School, all students in the elementary and intermediate buildings will be housed at West Elkton Intermediate. The upper elementary grades may need to be moved to the current junior/senior high school building on Somers-Gratis Road.
Officials said the new Preble Shawnee Middle/High School will be constructed at the site of the current building without causing any disruption to the facility. Modular units needed to house students during the building project would be funded through the school’s existing general fund.
Camden Elementary will be torn down, and PS Junior/Senior High would be operational until the new facility is complete, and then be demolished. After students enter the new building in Camden, West Elkton Elementary will be turned over to the Village of West Elkton to be repurposed or demolished.
The projected budget for construction of the two new schools, according to school officials, is approximately $45 million. “With the state paying nearly two-thirds of the cost (65 percent) this translates into $29.2 million in state funding. If the district does not raise 35 percent of this $45 million budget, the $29.2 million in state funding will go to another school district in Ohio that is on t he OFCC waiting list,” the presentation noted. “Additionally, the district is going to spend $6.5 million in locally funded initiatives. These are things the state won’t cover, such as an auditorium, lengthening the gym floors to match area schools and adding square footage to the schools to make them more sufficient in size.”
The $6.5 million will not be covered in the 65 percent state share and must be raised locally.
“This is a critical step in ensuring that the children in our district are in facilities that help support academic achievement,” Bishop points out on the district’s website. “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, and West Elkton. 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.”
Additional information can be found at the school district’s website, www.psarrows.com.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH.