The Canal Winchester Times

Groveport Madison High School

Facilities review: $1M needed for yearly maintenance

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In preparation for a potential levy campaign, Groveport Madison schools Superintendent Bruce Hoover has requested a facilities review to better understand whether a capital improvement levy should also go on the ballot.

According to a presentation from consultants SHP Leading Design at the Dec. 11 board of education meeting, the district is facing a cost of $1 million a year in ongoing maintenance of the high school if upgrades are not made.

Todd Thackery, company vice president, said the $1 million would be needed "just to keep the building warm and dry." He said the 85,000 square feet available in the main high school building and the modular units is less than what is currently required for the number of students using the space.

The high school, according to Hoover, was the focus of the study because of overcrowding and facility issues. The report compiled by SHP showed 1,400 students are using a school built for 900. This has resulted in five separate lunch periods and longer breaks between classes in order to accommodate overcrowded hallways and walking distances to the 14 modular classrooms.

Other significant issues, according to SHP, include the immediate need to replace rusting water lines.

"There are three options: The first is just to keep the building warm and dry," Thackery said. "The second option is to renovate the building and build an addition, but that doesn't include Ohio School Facilities Commission co-funding. Lastly is the option to replace."

Co-funding is based on several factors, including financial need and enrollment projections, which, in the case of Groveport Madison, mean the state would pay 53 percent while a local tax levy would be required to pay 47 percent of the costs of any renovation project.

Thackery said OSFC co-funding is only available for new buildings, and specifically for facilities that help districts meet core curriculum. As such, one potential cost savings for the community, if it were to build a new high school, would be to retain the current gymnasium and theater because there are components of these structures -- specifically "fixed seating" -- that are ineligible for co-funding, he said.

"A new high school would be about 235,000 square feet, which would get you where you need to be for the number of students. This includes a new auditorium," Thackery said. "If we looked at keeping the existing auditorium, gym and locker rooms, that would require adding new mechanicals to service those and additional restrooms, which would cost about $3.5 million and wouldn't be covered by co-funding."

According to Thackery, the $3.5 million required to keep the existing components is about equal to what it would cost residents for their share of paying for a new school as part of a complete new-build project with co-funding.

Overall, the cost summary presented by SHP suggested that renovations and additions without co-funding would cost local taxpayers $37 million.

Building a new high school would cost local taxpayers $29.6 million with an additional $33.3 million coming from the state.

"So renovating and adding on would be more expensive than a new school," Thackery said. "The estimated millage is 2.23 mills, which is $68.29 per year per $100,000 home."

Hoover said that if the board were to decide to go to the voters, SHP has suggested completing the same process on all district facilities doing the work in three phases.

Doing this, he said, means the district could maintain an interest rate of 5 percent for any bonds associated with the project over the next 38 years.

"We're looking at doing this as a segmentation project, so if it takes us 15 or 20 years to get all the pieces voted on, we're still locked in at the 5-percent rate, and I think you're looking at three phases where we go out to vote each segment," Hoover said. "That means when the high school is completed, we'd come back to voters and ask for the next part."

Thackery said segmentation provides more flexibility as well.

"The nice thing about doing segmentation is that things change over time, so districts can modify their building project to meet program needs instead of trying to predict that all at once," he said. "The high school project is at least a three-year process."

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