The Canal Winchester Times

Groveport Madison

School board starts planning to use levy, bond money

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With voter approval of the Groveport Madison school district's levy and bond issue in hand, officials are moving to put plans in motion for turning those approved tax dollars into results.

District Treasurer Anthony Swartz told the school board last month that the administration will have to act quickly to get on the Ohio School Facilities Commission project-approval list for this year so construction of a new high school, approved under the bond portion of the ballot issue, can move forward as planned.

"This bond issue is the first passed in the district since the 1970s," Swartz said. "We have a bit of urgency in moving this forward with the OSFC, since this only one of their many projects, and they don't have enough money for all of them to be approved for this year, so we're trying to get in ahead of the game."

Swartz said there are several steps required before the OSFC will release funds to start the design and construction process; in particular, he said, the board will need to approve policies related to debt management, preferably before August, so the district can receive a bond rating and, hopefully, sell bonds by September.

"We had an estimate of 5-percent interest rates on bonds when we took this to the voters ... bond issues are coming in between 4- and 5-percent, which means less millage that we'll require to come in if we get the lower interest rate, which will save the taxpayers," Swartz said. "This will also depend on what the debt rating agency rates us at, since we haven't had bond debt in years."

According to Superintendent Bruce Hoover, the district will likely release a Request for Proposals for an architect and a construction management company this summer, ahead of the finalization of all of the funding assurances.

The Ohio-based facilities firm SHP, which the board hired directly, without bid, for the initial facilities review and proposal that led to the bond issue, will be able to compete for the full project through the RFP process, according to Hoover.

"(The board) will be required to approve a long list of recommendations for this project and that'll start in the June meeting and quickly escalate as the architect and construction manager selection is made," Swartz said.

"We'll have some say in these recommendations and the OSFC, as a partner in the project, will have some say as well."

Hoover said the OSFC will work with district administrators to develop "a full timeline."

Besides the construction planning, Swartz said he has adjusted the district's five-year budget plan to reflect the increased revenue as well as the reinstatement of busing and extracurricular activities for the 2014-2015 school year.

"Remember, this is a five-year levy and we want to make this last five years or more, but already we're getting requests for things over and above what we planned, so it will be very important that we evaluate everything we do," Swartz said.

"For right now, the only things I've added back into the budget are the two things we know are definitely coming back next year -- transportation and extracurriculars."

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