Licking County News

SWL asking again for $66.5M bond


For the second time in less than a year, Southwest Licking voters will decide May 6 if the school district should undertake a large-scale facility construction and renovation project.

The district is seeking a 6.1-mill, 37-year bond issue to raise more than $66.5 million for the $109 million project.

If approved, the issue would cost district homeowners an additional $213.50 each year per $100,000 of assessed property valuation.

The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission would contribute the remaining $42.5 million to fund the $109 million project.

District officials say the state likely will withdraw the $42.5 million if voters continue to reject the bond issue.

A similar 6.04-mill bond issue failed Nov. 5, 2013, with 3,033 voting against it and 2,598 voting in favor, or about 54 percent to 46 percent.

District officials maintain that school buildings are above capacity and the $109 million construction and renovation project would create new learning opportunities.

"The passage of the bond issue by the voters in May (would) allow the district to alleviate existing overcrowded conditions found in all of our buildings, maintain K-5 neighborhood schools, allow for new opportunities in programming such as all-day, every-day kindergarten, STEM and dual enrollment courses, and it (would) allow for the updating of our facilities to 21st-century teaching standards and security," Superintendent Robert Jennell said. "This is an extremely great opportunity for the residents of the Southwest Licking school district to upgrade the learning environment for all students, pre-kindergarten to (grade) 12, and at a fraction of the cost of doing it alone."

Jennell said the $42.5 million offer from the state will end this summer.

"But, the growing needs and concerns of the district will not," Jennell said.

If the bond issue is approved, Southwest Licking officials plan to build an 184,912-square-foot high school and a 54,357-square-foot elementary school; renovate the current high school into a middle school; renovate all three elementary buildings; and convert the existing middle school into a pre-kindergarten center, district offices and transportation center.

The plan would provide space to accommodate current student enrollment and expected growth for the next 10 years, according to district officials.

It also would include new security and safety equipment throughout all school buildings, as well as energy-efficient heating, ventilation, air conditioning and electrical systems.

Southwest Licking was one of the central Ohio school districts to see a small increase in enrollment -- about 0.1 percent -- over the past five years, according to The Columbus Dispatch in an April 13 article citing the Ohio Department of Education.