Thursday, October 17th, 2013
By Margie Wuebker
Residents learn about school bond, levy issue
If passed, measure would generate $14.6 million for new school building
  NEW BREMEN - Nearly 50 people attended the first community meeting Wednesday night at New Bremen High School to hear more about a combined 7.91-mill bond issue and maintenance levy on the November ballot.
If approved, the millage would generate $14.6 million toward the $22.5 million project with the Ohio Schools Facility Commission contributing $6.975 million. The remaining $994,108 would come from local permanent improvement funds.
Approval of the combined millage would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an extra $276.85 annually for 33 years.
The proposed project involves construction of a 77,000-square-foot building for K-6 students. Plans also call for additions to both sides of the existing high school building to house seventh and eighth grades. Some 2,000 square feet at the west end is earmarked for a vocal music facility while 8,000 square feet at the east end involves classroom space.
Superintendent Howard Overman explained OSFC funding applies only to the K-6 building, with district residents picking up the cost of both additions.
The proposed building site lies southeast of the high school on the 46-acre campus with traffic access from Cardinal Drive.
Following defeats of a similar bond issue and maintenance levy in March 2012, school officials and facilities committee members went back to the drawing board. They also sought input from local residents, who did not like the previously proposed site on the west side of the building off state Route 274.
Subsequent surveys yielded a 77 percent consensus the new building should be at the high school campus instead of the area of Walnut and Plum streets, where the existing elementary/middle school building stands. Additionally, 87 percent of respondents suggested a millage request be placed on the November ballot.
School officials noted project costs have climbed $2 million since the initial plea due to rising construction costs. Additionally, OSFC funding has dropped from 50 to 49 percent.
Some people suggested officials wait until the high school building is paid off in 2018 before pursuing new millage. The owner of a $100,000 home currently pays $241 a year toward the remaining balance.
"We would pay a lot up front but the amount drops off when the high school is paid off," Overman added.
Treasurer Deb Meyer pointed out costs will continue to escalate at an annual rate of 3.29 percent and OSFC funding is guaranteed in the state's current two-year budget.
Some people in attendance questioned why school officials are not considering renovations to the existing elementary/middle school building.
Keith Bornhorst, a school board and facilities committee member, indicated it would cost more than $17.7 million to repair ongoing plumbing, heating and roof problems at the current building.
The school, comprised of multiple additions to the original 1929 structure, is not air conditioned and does not meet electrical and other codes.
"The problem is if we start, where do we stop," he questioned. "We have talked with schools who proceeded with renovations and they admit they still have an old building."
Repairs aimed at keeping the existing building operational will continue even if the bond issue and maintenance levy are approved due to a projected three-year timetable.
If voters OK the levy, construction would begin in spring 2015 and continue through summer 2016, with opening day the start of the 2016-2017 school year.
Additional money issues loom on the horizon. The board plans to seek renewal of a 1 percent income tax next May with a 1-mill permanent improvement levy headed for the ballot in May 2015. Meyer said it may be possible to drop that millage to a half mill.  
Bornhorst said no decision has been made on the fate of the old building. It could be sold but there is money in the plan for demolition if no one expresses an interest in it.
Additional community meetings are slated for 7 p.m. Oct. 21, 9 a.m. Oct. 23 and 7 p.m. Oct. 29 in the James F. Dicke Auditorium at the high school.
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