Johnstown Independent

Possible spring ballot issue

J-M planning for future construction

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

The Johnstown-Monroe Local School District is still in line to receive state funding to help build or renovate schools.

That is, if voters approve a future bond issue.

Stephen Roka, representing the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, told ThisWeek Johnstown Independent a lot of work remains to be done by the end of the year to create a plan for the Johnstown schools.

The school board unanimously approved legislation last month to enter into an active planning process to prepare for a possible conditional approval in 2014 to participate in the Classroom Facilities Assistance Program.

"We have a lot of pedaling to do between now and early January," Roka said. "But we've done this before. We'll assess the condition of existing buildings and decide if they want to build new versus renovate."

Johnstown-Monroe had accepted a funding offer in 2012 but couldn't come up with the local funding. The Ohio School Facilities Commission had approved Classroom Facilities Assistance Program funding for the construction of new buildings -- one for kindergarten through fifth grade and one for sixth through 12th grade. The state share of the project was $15.9 million, with a local share of $33.8 million, for a total budget of $49.7 million.

Instead of seeking funds for a bond issue for buildings, the board placed an operating levy on the ballot in May, when 65 percent of voters said yes to renew an 8.5-mill property tax for five years. That levy is expected to raise $2.2 million annually, and it's expected to keep the district from deficit spending through 2019.

Because a local share wasn't raised for a building project, Roka said, the district went into lapse status.

"What that means is, they will re-engage in the planning process," he said. "Should they raise money, we'll prepare a plan for that purpose. We'll agree upon the numbers, and then they will go about raising their local share."

At the beginning of the school year, interim Superintendent Thomas Slater told ThisWeek he had anticipated a spring ballot issue.

With an equal number of school board candidates per available board seats in November's election, Slater said, he expected consistent planning for district facilities. He said the district would start at zero and reassess what's the best direction for the district.

"We're in a holding pattern, waiting for the district," Roka said. "If they raise their local share, they move to the front of the line. For a lapse district, if they have the money, we have to fund them first."

The resolution, which was approved Sept. 16, states the school board intends to obtain funding by May 2014 and will provide any necessary information to prepare or update enrollment projections.

In addition, the district acknowledged the state commission's recommendation that the district engage a design and construction professional to assist in the review of the information presented in a facilities-assessment report.

"The district will provide any information available to aid in the identification of any areas of concern for conditions, which cannot be readily observed by standard assessment procedures throughout the district facilities, and the district acknowledges that the scope of services provided by the professional authoring the facilities-assessment report does not include invasive facilities and grounds investigation," the resolution states.

The state commission was established in 1997 and is responsible for the administration of the state's school construction and renovation program. It has worked with nearly two-thirds of the state's 600-plus school districts and has opened more than 1,000 new or renovated facilities.

On Sept. 10, 2012, the commission was consolidated with the Office of the State Architect to form the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission. The OSFC continues to exist as a separate commission within the new agency, focusing on funding Ohio's comprehensive K-12 school construction program.

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