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Saturday, May 19th, 2012

Renovate? Build new?

Celina board to consider possible school construction plan to put before voters

By Amy Kronenberger
CELINA - As school board members mull options for a possible school construction project, public opinion remains mostly quiet.
The district formed a facility planning committee earlier this year of about 23-35 residents. They overall favor a building project, superintendent Matt Miller said.
"We reached out to younger couples with smaller children who would be impacted most by the project," he said. "There was a lot of discussion and questions asked, but by-and-large, they saw the need for an elementary. No one was outspoken against a project."
The school board is looking at a handful of construction possibilities. All of the options include building a new K-4 elementary and demolishing East and West elementaries, but they vary on what to do with other buildings. The Ohio School Facilities Commission will fund 43 percent of any project.
The facility committee was formed through East and West parent teacher organizations. The group met several times to discuss project options and tour facilities. They learned of the space issues and infrastructure problems at the 60-year-old elementary buildings.
Committee member Matt Overman said he and his wife support new school construction. They were surprised to see the amount of water in the basement at West and the space issues at both elementaries.
"When we toured East, we were disgusted by the space conditions," he said. "Kids were having classes in janitors' closets. It's unacceptable."
Miller said school officials also sent letters and emails to area businesses and posted information on the school's website and facebook page. They have not heard anyone speak out against a possible project, he said.
Two community meetings also were held - about 75 people attended the first and 40 the second, with 60 percent of the audience being school employees. School and Fanning Howey Associates officials presented construction options, listed pros and cons and gave costs. Using remote controls, the audience voted for their preferred choice. However, they were not given the option to vote for no project at all.
The majority of attendees favored the least expensive option of replacing the elementaries and renovating the middle school at a total cost of $31.5 million. At the end of the presentation, questions were asked. No one spoke out against the board moving forward with a construction project.
Celina resident Chris Cron, who attended the first meeting, said he decided there was no point in voicing his opposition.
"It became apparent very quickly that the board has already made up its mind to fund a building project because one option was not on the table - the option to do no building project," he told the newspaper this week.
He also said he was against one plan that calls for demolishing the middle school and building a new one.
"The idea of tearing down the middle school when we're still paying it off is unbelievable to me," he said.
A 1996, $17 million bond issue, which paid for the intermediate school, addition to the middle and high schools and renovation of the Franklin building in Montezuma, won't be paid off until 2020.
At the second community meeting, officials asked attendees if they preferred to only replace the elementaries. Eighty percent voted definitely or likely.
"I agree something needs to be done," Cron said. "East and West are older buildings, but I don't believe they are at the end of their lives."
Cron said the infrastructure problems could be fixed without tearing down the buildings, likely saving the district millions.
"But no one took a serious look at how to fix the problems; their only plans were to tear it down," he said. "I already pay too much in taxes, so that already predisposes me to be against it. But I at least want more options to fix the problems."
To receive the 43 percent state share, the board must approve a plan by early June. The district has deferred state funding each year since 2008.
Board members agreed to look into a construction project in September. They were concerned funding would only continue to diminish while costs increased.
Members hired a private company, independent from the state, to inspect the schools and estimate their life expectancy. Options for the construction project were then developed.
Along with state funding, school districts often add Locally Funded Initiatives - additional taxpayer money used to cover items OSFC will not cover, such as having larger classrooms or building an auditorium.
OSFC determines classroom size based on a 25:1 student-teacher ratio. Miller said kindergarten and first-grade classes should be smaller than 25:1. Therefore, the school is requesting LFI funding for additional space in the new elementary building.
Other costs the state will not fund include a land purchase; stadiums, tracks and bleachers; fixed-seat auditorium; material upgrades such as Terrazzo floors and metal roofs; off-site utilities; bus or maintenance buildings; computer hardware/software; and closing up buildings that are partially demolished.
Celina treasurer Mike Marbaugh said any added LFI funds would be lumped into the total bond issue. Schools can place the LFI as a separate issue on a ballot, but most don't; schools don't want one issue to pass and not the other, he said.
Fanning Howey executive director Stephen Wilczynski said the state determines the percentage of local tax dollars vs. OSFC funding by dividing the total school property value by the number of students in the district, then averages it over three years. Celina's local share comes to about 57 percent, putting OSFC money at 43 percent. Celina's enrollment is about 2,800.
The school board next meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the high school lecture hall, but Miller is not expecting members to make any decision until June because final numbers from the state are needed. He expects the decision to be made at a special meeting in June.

OSFC Recommended master plan:
• New K-4 building
• Renovate intermediate school (5-6)
• Renovate middle school
• High school renovations and additions
• Demolish East and West elementaries
Cost: $65.8 million
• Local share: $43 million
• The total includes $5.4 million in Locally Funded Initiatives for additional classroom space.
Funding: 37-year bond issue at 6-6.6 mills
• Owner of a $100,000 property would pay $184-$202 per year

Segmented option A:
• New K-4 building
• Demolish East and West
• Renovate middle school
Cost: $31.5 million
• Local share $21 million
• The total includes $3.05 million in LFIs for additional classroom space.
Funding: 37-year bond issue at 3.2-3.5 mills
• Owner of a $100,000 property would pay $98-$108 per year
* This option can be upgraded to include building a new middle school instead of renovating. This would add $4.4 million to local share and 0.55 mills to the tax levy, costing taxpayers another $17-$19 per year.

Segmented option B:
• New K-4 building
• Demolish East and West
• Renovate high school with a 16,465-square-foot addition
Cost: $47.9 million
• Local share $29.2 million
• The total includes $1.9 million in LFIs for additional classroom space.
Funding: 37-year bond issue at 4.3-4.7 mills
• Owner of a $100,000 property would pay $131-$143 per year

Segmented option C:
• New K-4 building
• Demolish East and West
• Renovate middle school
• Renovate high school with a 16,465-square-foot addition
Cost: $58.2 million
• Local share $36.2 million
• The total includes $3 million in LFIs for additional classroom space.
Funding: 37-year bond issue at 5.2-5.7 mills
• Owner of a $100,000 property would pay $160-$176 per year.

Additional LFIs:
Any of these can be added to the above plans.
Free-standing 600-seat auditorium
•  $4.5 million
•  Additional 0.6 mills; $19 per year
Second gym at K-4
•  $1.2 million
•  Additional 0.17 mills; $4.75 per year
Flooring upgrades at K-4
•   $300,000
•   Additional 0.045 mills; $1.40 per year
Air conditioning at intermediate school
•  $950,000
•  Additional 0.13 mills; $3.90 per year
Air conditioning at middle school
•  $900,000
•  Additional 0.12 mills; $3.70 per year
New heating/air conditioning at high school
•  $2.9 million
•  Additional 0.4 mills; $12 per year
*** The state's 43 percent share of each project does not factor in any LFIs.
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