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Thursday, September 11th, 2008

Fort Recovery board rejects state funds for high school project

By William Kincaid
FORT RECOVERY - Board of education members once again rejected state money for a possible school construction project at the high school.
At a meeting this week, board members for the second time deferred money from the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC).
Treasurer Lori Koch said OSFC sent a letter saying the school would be eligible for money in November. Since the board rejected the offer, OSFC will make another offer in July, at which time board members can accept, reject or once again defer, Koch said.
Currently, there is no limit on how many times a school can defer OSFC funding.
Board members deferred this round of funding to give themselves more time to consider their options, Koch said.
The amount of possible funding will not be adversely affected by the reluctance of board members, who initially rejected the money in 2007 after holding five community meetings to gather input on how to proceed.
Superintendent David Riel said state law recently changed in a way that benefits Fort Recovery. Any school that engaged with the OSFC in a prior construction project will be offered the same percentage of funding for a new project, Riel said.
"This is great news for Fort Recovery," Koch told board members this week.
School officials in 2007 initially were offered $1.3 million to help rebuild or renovate the high school. If the school board would have accepted state money at that time and followed state building guidelines, the project would have cost up to $11.4 million, with taxpayers possibly having to fund up to $10.1 million.
With the new law, the state would cover 79 percent of a construction/renovation project and taxpayers would fund 21 percent. This is the same percentage that was used to fund the new elementary/middle school finished in 2000.
Riel has said the initial amount of state funding offered to Fort Recovery was not equitable. Last year he and Koch began meeting with OSFC Executive Director Michael C. Shoemaker. Shoemaker, according to Riel, also thought the funding system was unfair.
"He said to Lori and I, 'I agree with what you're saying,' " Riel told school board members.  
Riel said Shoemaker, who became executive director in February 2007, agreed that the funding system was not fair and stated he would try and change it.
Various politicians, including state Rep. Keith Faber, R-Celina, helped change the law, Riel said.
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