Rocky Fork Enterprise

Permanent improvements

Gahanna-Jefferson Public School District weighing strategy to sell November levy

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Gahanna-Jefferson Public School District leaders soon will begin discussions with the community about a permanent improvements levy that could be proposed for the Nov. 4 ballot.

Superintendent Francis Scruci told the school board May 8 the district needs to consider the possibility of a permanent improvements levy.

"Once (treasurer) Julio (Valladares) has proposals, we need to involve the community," he said. "We need a resolution by Aug. 6 for the November ballot."

Scruci said 27 of 65 new school tax issues were approved in Ohio in the May 6 election, for a passage rate of about 40 percent.

"Seventy-five of 83 (requests) were renewals," he said. "Any time you ask for new money is a fight. As we talk about our buses, a technology plan, along with aging buildings, this is a real need. It's a concern and something we need to have serious discussions with the community to see where they are."

Valladares said he would meet this week with bond counsel Bricker & Eckler and Key Bank's Charles Wise, a former G-J board member.

"We'll discuss options to present to the board so we can start communicating with the community about what road we need to take," Valladares said. "A permanent improvement levy (would) address needs of capital improvements. We have been looking at what alternatives and options we have."

In looking at the district's five-year forecast, he said, a deficit of $182,627 is predicted for 2017 and $1,028,927 in 2018.

Valladares said he has been discussing what to do to address the deficit, as well as busing and technology needs, with Scruci and an administrative team.

"Millage is yet to be determined," he said. "We can put on a permanent improvement in November. If it passes, it would relieve funds from the general fund. It would take care of our buildings where we need to implement something. What I need to know is the dollar amount to work with -- what kind of a millage we will look at to place on the ballot."

Valladares said the district could consider a permanent improvements levy that could be renewed every 10 years or a combination bond and levy.

He said three school buildings are at the point that it would make more economic sense to tear them down and build new rather than repair. He didn't say which buildings to which he was referring and didn't respond to ThisWeek's questions by press time.

He said consideration could be given to tearing down three buildings and replacing them with two.

Board member Lew Griffin asked how much money is in the budget for maintenance.

Valladares said $300,000 remains for maintenance repairs to buildings each year over the next five years.

"That's just maintenance and repairs," he said. "One boiler would take care of that amount in one shot."

Scruci said the community would have to consider the cost benefit of putting money into a bad building or building a new one.

"We need to talk to the community about what they will support," he said. "We can address the most immediate need over the next five years or build new. The community needs to have that input with us."

Valladares said the majority of the district's revenues go toward paying salary and benefits, like any other district, because it's a service organization.

For fiscal year 2014, an estimated 77 percent of the district's $80,710,376 in operating expenditures will go toward wages and benefits.

The next-largest expense is purchased services like utilities, 12 percent; supplies and materials, 3 percent; capital improvements, 3 percent; and other expenses, 5 percent.

"The capital improvements we have been doing has been minimal," Valladares said.

In other board discussion, Scruci said the Gahanna-Jefferson Education Foundation's members have expressed concern about the coordinator-of-community-service position that's being vacated following the retirement of Dale Foor.

"It's a half-time position," he said. "I think we can keep half time. There's a holdup with the (Gahanna) Gala. If the district isn't committed to the foundation, there could be problems with them moving forward."

Board president Jill Schuler said the board supports the foundation.

"There's a hesitancy to commit a personal credit card to reserve a spot," Scruci said. "I tried to reassure we are committed to the foundation. There's a nervousness."

Schuler said the position undoubtedly would be filled.

Scruci said the district loses a great deal of historical knowledge with Foor's retirement, and he recommends posting the position soon.

Board member Windy McKenna said 50 percent down is usually required to reserve a spot for a special event like the gala that has been held at the Villa Milano Banquet & Conference Center in recent years.

Scruci said the foundation has been considering a larger venue at Easton, closer to Gahanna, that would require a substantial reservation payment.

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