Licking County News

Southwest Licking schools

Jones: Board to consider bond millage July 25

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Southwest Licking school board members will have some big decisions to make during their July 25 meeting, which was postponed from July 18.

Treasurer Richard Jones said he hopes to present millage options, including the terms of a bond, to fund the district's proposed $96-million building and renovation project.

The district would need local voters to approve a November ballot measure worth $66.5 million: $51.2 million for the district's share of the project and an additional $15.2 million for locally funded initiatives .

Jones said he expects board members to vote July 25 on a resolution seeking millage certification from the county auditor's office.

Then during a special meeting at 7 p.m. Aug. 1, board members could vote to place the issue on the November ballot. The deadline is Aug. 7.

Superintendent Robert Jennell said thus far, board members have shown support for the $96-million project that includes:

* Building one new elementary school for kindergarten through fifth grade.

* Renovating Etna, Kirkersville and Pataskala elementary schools to accommodate kindergarten through fifth grade.

* Renovating and adding to Watkins Memorial High School to accommodate grades six to eight.

* Building one new high school for grades nine to 12 and career tech students.

* Demolishing the Southwest Licking Kindergarten Center and the administration office building.

"It's my hope they do go in that direction" and continue to support the project, Jennell said.

He said the district is responsible for about $51.2 million because the Ohio School Facilities Commission will cover the remainder of the $96-million price.

In total, the project will cost about $110 million because the board approved $15.2 million of proposed funded initiatives district officials said are necessary for the new builds and renovations to serve district students adequately and safely.

Jones said details of the planned $66.5-million November ballot issue depend on the terms of the bond.

He said the district can take up to 37 years to pay off the loan. A longer term means less millage on the ballot, but the district, in turn, would pay more interest.

So, Jones said, he plans to provide board members with millage and interest options for 23-, 28- and 33-year terms as well as a 37-year term.

Jones said at 23 years, the district would pay $41.6 million in interest. At 28 years, it would be $54.9 million; at 33 years, $69.7 million; and at 37 years, $81.8 million.

Jones said the difference between the longest and shortest bond terms translates to 2 mills or less.

The challenge, Jones said, is deciding how to keep the interest rate as low as possible while also keeping the millage as low as possible to increase the chances of voter approval.

"The board's just going to have to decide what they want to do," he said.

Jennell said he believes parents with children in the district would support better facilities, particularly those with younger children and kindergartners.

Many recognize the crowded classrooms and students being displaced among the buildings, he said.

"They see the need; they understand the need," Jennell said. "We're overcrowded. It's unfortunate."

Jennell said parents of high school students know the district must prepare their children to be competitive in a working world full of advancements.

"They'll see we're a little bit antiquated," he said.

Jennell said facilities such as labs need updated and the district needs to continue developing Advanced Placement courses.

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