Delaware News

Big Walnut doesn't fret over lower estimate from AEP

District will receive up to $3.6M in taxes from new substation


An American Electric Power Co. substation being built just east of Sunbury won't cost as much as originally estimated -- which means the Big Walnut Local School District will receive less property-tax revenue once it is completed.

Jim Spurrier, a member of the school district's finance committee, reported to the school board Monday, Aug. 12, that AEP officials informed him the price tag for the project has lowered to about $110 million from a projected $158 million.

Different variables factored into the lowering of the cost, Spurrier said AEP told him.

The original cost would have generated about $5.4 million annually for the district in new property-tax revenue. The revised amount should bring in between $3.4 million and $3.6 million for the district.

The project is expected to be completed by summer 2014.

"We probably won't get taxes from this until the second half of 2015," Spurrier told the board.

District Treasurer Felicia Drummey asked Spurrier to look into the substation project and provide an update for the school board.

Board members said they are pleased the project will result in extra revenue for the district, even if it is less than originally forecast.

"That's fantastic news ... The question of timing will be everything, but you'll figure that out," board President Allison Fagan said to Drummey regarding when revenue would start coming in.

That's important, because the treasurer previously told the board it needs to place an operating levy on the ballot in November 2014 or May 2015.

Collections on the current 7.5-mill emergency levy expire at the end of 2015.

Drummey said she will need to have as much financial information as possible to support recommendations on the length of a new levy as well as a millage amount.

Also on Aug. 12, the board approved a new, five-year contract for Drummey. She will be paid $95,000 a year; officials did not immediately have information on her total compensation package, including health-care benefits.

Drummey's old three-year contract, which has expired, paid $87,000 annually. The new contract is retroactive to Aug. 1

"I'm really excited Felicia is being approved for a five-year contract," board member Pamula Lillie said. "You've really grown (in the job) in the past few years."

The board also approved a three-year contract with SC Strategic Solutions LLC that will cost up to a total of $10,000.

Strategic Solutions provides computerized storage of information and other services for dozens of school districts and various hospital systems in Ohio.

Company representative Troy Stein told the school board that the system provides security through various user names, passwords, encrypted codes and an audit trail of who has used the system.

Initially, Big Walnut will use the company's website system to store high school student records, including grade reports and Social Security numbers.

Drummey said the district then could make the transition to storing information for district employee personnel files and other student information, such as special-education records.

"This is a very simple but straightforward system to allow you to search for what you need,'' Stein said.

Several board members had concerns about the security of the system.

"Our biggest concern is someone hacking your system," Lillie said.

Stein said that has not happened and added there are strong safeguards in place.

Lillie and other board members later indicated they were satisfied with Stein's explanations about the security of the system.

"I think (the system) is going to simplify things and maybe save on labor costs," she said.

Currently, paper records are stored in scattered locations throughout the high school and elsewhere, requiring support personnel to search through boxes for records each time information is needed.