Licking County News

Southwest Licking schools

Jennell: Bids would determine details of construction project

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If the Southwest Licking school district's second try for a 6.04-mill bond issue is approved by voters in May, bids will determine what locally funded initiatives can be completed as part of the ensuing $109 million construction and renovation project, Superintendent Robert Jennell told the school board Dec. 19.

The same 6.04-mill bond request was rejected by district voters Nov. 5. The tax issue would provide about $66.5 million in local funding for the project. State officials have offered to kick in the remaining $42.5 million.

The bond would cost property owners about $211 per year per $100,000 of assessed property value.

The school district has one more chance to pass the bond issue in May, or the state might pull its funding offer, Jennell said.

The district worked with the Ohio School Facilities Commission to create a master plan for the proposed renovations and new construction, which cannot change.

But the district also has created a list of locally funded initiatives, or LFIs, the state would not help fund. Assuming the bond issue were approved in May, Jennell said, the master plan will be more expensive because of the passage of time and the LFIs will need adjustment, particularly pertaining to the elementary schools.

Jennell said the OSFC "recrunched the numbers" since November and found the LFIs planned for Etna Elementary School increased in cost by $1,340,829. The LFIs for Kirkersville Elementary School increased $547,997 and the LFIs for Pataskala Elementary School increased in cost by $562,938, he said.

"One of the things we wanted to do was not to increase the cost to the taxpayers in terms of the final bill," Jennell said.

With this in mind, the LFIs must be reduced by a total of $1,374,455, he said.

He said SWL and OSFC staff members reviewed the $15 million in proposed LFIs and created a lengthy prioritized list of LFIs that would definitely happen, those that might happen and those that likely would not happen.

Jennell said some might receive co-funding from the state if money is available, and the construction bids for the projects would determine which LFIs must be sacrificed.

If the project comes in under bid, Jennell said, then the remaining money would go toward LFIs. If bids are high, there would be fewer LFIs completed, he said.

Board members said the list of LFIs would need to be available to the voters and the prioritization explained.

Board member Don Huber said he would like to see a list of renovations necessary for the elementary school buildings and an explanation to voters as to why they are so expensive.

"This is being done," Jennell said, referencing a fact book that is being created.

Jennell also said a fact book would show how the proposed new builds are similar in costs to buildings in similar districts.

"We have to provide those answers," Huber said.

Huber said some people he talks to believe the existing elementary schools "look fine" and don't they understand the need for renovations.

Jennell said he hopes fact books will be available in January.

In other business Dec. 19, the school board scheduled its 2014 organizational meeting for 7 p.m. Jan. 7. A special meeting will follow to discuss bond-related issues.

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