Johnstown Independent

Pro-levy group plans door-to-door campaign

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The group responsible for rallying support for the Johnstown-Monroe Local School District's bond issue on the May 6 ballot has scheduled two more community meetings to answer questions about the measure.

The meetings will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 21, in the Johnstown Village Council chambers, 599 S. Main St., and at 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 28, at the Monroe Township Hall, 7621 Johnstown-Alexandria Road.

Group volunteer Jay Hazelbaker said an informational table would be set up at Belt Park on Saturday, May 3, for the JYAA kickoff, and door-to-door campaigns will occur Saturday, April 26, and Saturday, May 3.

Voters face a proposed 8-mill tax issue, with 7.5 mills for bonds to construct and renovate school facilities and 0.5 mill for permanent improvements to maintain the new buildings.

If voters approve the measure, it's expected to generate $1,865,231 annually for 38 years.

Homeowners would pay an additional $280 annually per $100,000 of assessed property value, or $23.33 per month.

The bond would finance a new building to house kindergarten through fifth graders on 11 acres of district property within the Leafy Dell subdivision.

A new high school for grades 9-12 would be constructed on land at the current Searfoss Elementary School/ Johnstown-Monroe High School campus, most likely on the practice field behind the high school.

At the recommendation of a community-based group, the school board took action Jan. 30 to place the issue on the May ballot. The group recommended and the board approved a proposal for a shared project with the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission for the K-5 building at Leafy Dell, a new 9-12 building on the existing high school campus and a partially renovated high school for middle school use.

The renovation would have to be entirely locally funded.

Johnstown-Monroe would have to raise 71 percent of total costs locally, with the state contributing 29 percent, for the shared building projects.

If the issue is approved in May, treasurer Tammy Woods said, she estimates $29.7 million would be spent on the district's master plan for a new high school and elementary school, with $6.16 million going toward the locally funded initiative to refurbish the high school and provide infrastructure needs, for a total project cost of $35.86 million.

The high school renovation would include new heating and ventilating equipment, water and sewer improvements, electrical subpanels for electrical capacity to classrooms, technology upgrades, roof replacement at the library and performing-arts center, a secured vestibule entrance and a new gym floor and bleachers.

Hazelbaker said the group's campaign theme is "It's Time."

Since 2001, he said, the district's share of eligible state funding has decreased from 41 to 29 percent -- roughly 1 percentage point annually.

The longer the district delays, Hazelbaker said, the greater the likelihood that a significant number of needs would have to be funded locally and at an even higher rate. He said the needs and costs to maintain older, existing buildings would continue to rise, consuming more of the district's operating funds.

Johnstown currently uses some of the oldest educational buildings in Licking County, with no education-based facility improvements in about 30 years, he said. Adams Middle School was built in 1927; Oregon Elementary, 1951; Searfoss, 1961; and the high school, 1965. The performing-arts center was built in 1986.

Hazelbaker said the district has real and significant facilities needs.

"We believe there are a multitude of reasons why this is our best opportunity to address those needs in a responsible and meaningful way," he said.

If the bond issue is approved, design is expected to begin in July and construction would be completed in about three years.

More information about the campaign is online at johnstownohioschools.com.

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