By Jeff Gallatin
School district officials took another step toward placing on the November ballot a proposal for a new combined sixth- through 12th-grade school on the current North Olmsted middle and high school campuses.
A special school board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. July 10 to discuss the issue as well as give the public the chance for additional input on the proposal. In addition, the regular school board session was moved from July 16 to July 23 to make it easier for school board members to attend and take action. Some of the board members had indicated they would not be available for the mid-July meeting due to summer commitments.
School district Superintendent Mike Zalar suggested the board set up the special meeting to give the public a chance for additional input about the proposed school building since the district will have to decide in the next few weeks if it wants to place an issue on the ballot. The district’s volunteer facilities panel recommended building the new school to replace the current 84-year-old middle school and more than 50-year-old high school.
School board President John Lasko said the district should have a decision this month.
“We’ll know by the 23rd if we’re going on the ballot in November,” he said. “We have an early August deadline for getting everything ready, so we need to decide and take the appropriate actions.”
A key part of the proposal is that Ohio state education facilities officials have committed the state to providing 12 percent of the costs of building a new structure that houses the middle school educational functions. It has stipulated that it will only help pay for a building housing the middle school education functions. It will not help pay for renovations of the current middle school, or to build a new high school and move the middle school classes to the current high school.
In addition, the school board will also have to decide if it wants to act on putting in a November ballot issue enough funds to build a new sports complex, a performing arts center and specialized flooring for the buildings. If it does, the district would have to pay for all those costs by itself, since the state has indicated it would only help pay for the educational functions in a new building. Current estimates are that if the other projects are added on to the cost of a new building, the cost would be about $80 million, or about 5.46 mills. Officials have said this would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $190 annually.
Since the state also is requiring that there be a half-mill available for improvements or maintenance costs, the board must decide whether to add a half-mill to a ballot proposal or to take 0.5 mill, or a half-mill, from the current 1.45-mill continuing permanent improvements levy, which was passed by district voters decades ago for maintenance and improvements.
“In addition to deciding about the November ballot, we have some decisions to make on the sports complex, performing arts center and the flooring,” Lasko said. “I would expect some good discussion on this.”
State officials have said their portion of the costs will be available for 13 months, from July 2014 to August 2015. If the district does not have a financing plan in place for a new building by then, the state money would no longer be available and the district would have to reapply for it.