Licking County News

SWL officials want bond issue back on ballot in May

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Southwest Licking school district officials likely will ask voters in May to reconsider the 6.04-mill bond issue that failed Nov. 5.

Voters rejected the bond request by a count of 3,033 votes to 2,598 votes, or 53.86 percent to 46.14 percent, according to official results from the Licking County Board of Elections.

It would have provided about $66.5 million for a $109 million construction and renovation project. The state would have kicked in $42.5 million, district officials said. The bond would have cost property owners about $211 per year per $100,000 of assessed property value.

"With the failure of the (issue), there have been a lot of questions about what the next step will be," said Superintendent Robert Jennell.

The school board on Nov. 21 voted 4-0, with Roger Zeune absent, to approve a statement of intent that the bond issue will appear on the May ballot.

The millage of 6.04 will remain the same, and the district will present the same construction plan state officials set up.

Jennell said the district worked with the Ohio School Facilities Commission to create a master plan for the proposed renovations and new construction.

"That plan cannot change," he said.

However, the district might make adjustments to the locally funded initiatives the state would not help fund, but district officials deemed necessary.

If voters approve the bond request in May, Jennell said, the master plan likely will be more expensive because of the passage of time.

"(The Ohio School Facilities Commission) has to go back and re-crunch the numbers," Jennell said.

If it is more expensive, Jennell asked the board for recommendations in adjusting the locally funded initiatives so the May millage of 6.04 could remain the same.

"We need to prioritize the (locally funded initiatives)," he said. "If they come in with a few more things, it's my recommendation that we not change the amount we ask the voters for."

Jennell said any changes to the locally funded initiatives likely would involve the proposed renovations to the elementary buildings.

Board member Don Huber said as far as the elementary schools are concerned, "he would not go to the mat" for exterior brick.

"I'd take you to the mat on the brick," said board member Brad Williams.

Because a lengthy debate on the changes to the locally funded initiatives seemed likely, board members decided to send the discussion to a smaller committee that would return with recommendations to the board, likely by Dec. 19.

Board members also recommended Jennell and treasurer Richard Jones meet to determine if they could organize a public question-and-answer session Dec. 19 immediately before the board meeting.

The session would cover locally funded initiatives and the district's attempt to pass the bond issue in May.

Board members said they would inform residents as soon as possible if the question-and-answer session is feasible.

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