Licking County News

Southwest Licking schools

State: Local share for building projects would be about $52M

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The Southwest Licking school board voted 4-0 during a special board meeting June 3 to approve the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission's basic financial package proposal for several major renovation projects.

Board members now are debating what renovations need to be included in the overall renovation budget beyond the state's basic package.

According to the approved resolution, the district plans to build one new elementary school for kindergarten through fifth-grade students and renovate Etna, Kirkersville and Pataskala elementary schools to accommodate the same grade levels.

The district plans renovations and an addition to Watkins Memorial High School, changing it to a facility for grades six through eight, and then would build one new high school to house grades nine through 12 and tech students.

Finally, the district plans to demolish Southwest Licking Kindergarten Center and Watkins Middle School.

The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission estimates these projects would cost $94,360,510. The state would pay $42,462,230, and the local share would be $51,898,280.

The district plans to place a bond issue for the project on the ballot this fall, but there's plenty to discuss before that happens.

Superintendent Robert Jennell said now that the board understands what the commission is willing to contribute to the total project, board members must determine what may be necessary beyond the commission's projected budget.

"The discussion is for things not directly covered by the commission, so the district knows what to place on a bond issue," Jennell said. "This is not an endless wish list of items. We have to discuss them before we can decide if we need them. The basics are there, but anything else is on the table."

Jennell said it's important for a bond issue to be approved as soon as possible while the state funding is available. If a bond request fails too many times, the approved state funding may go to another district.

Jennell said items beyond the basics, called "local funding initiatives," are the district's responsibility to finance completely and might include the size of an auditorium or even types of flooring.

"We're discussing the specifics of the project," he said.

Jennell emphasized that just because an item is discussed, it will not necessarily become part of the final project.

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