Licking County News

Board will weigh options May 15 in wake of bond failure

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Southwest Licking school district officials are picking up the pieces following the May 6 defeat of the district's 6.1-mill, 37-year bond request.

Voters rejected the bond 2,737 (54 percent) to 2,320 (46 percent), according to unofficial results from the Licking County Board of Elections. A similar bond request was rejected last November by the same percentage, although more voters turned out with 3,033 people voting against it and 2,598 voting in favor.

The bond would have raised more than $66.5 million for a $109 million facility construction and renovation project. The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission would have contributed $42.5 million to the project.

"A lot of the teachers and students thought it was the end of the world," said Roger Zeune, a school board member. "We will move on and continue to do the best we can."

Zeune said the board will meet May 15, at which time he assumes the levy defeat and plans for the future will be the main topic of discussion.

"All these things will be answered next Thursday," Zeune said. "We'll have to look down the road."

Although he can't speak for the rest of the board members, he said, he doubted the district would place a similar issue back on the ballot as quickly as possible.

Superintendent Robert Jennell said the district had no plans to put a bond issue on the August special-election ballot; the deadline to file for the August election was May 7.

The filing deadline for the November election is in August.

Zeune said "there were a lot of good reasons" the 6.1-mill bond issue was placed on the May 6 ballot, but the majority of voters indicated they weren't ready to invest in Southwest Licking's construction and renovation plan.

"It's sad were losing $42 million," he said, adding that district growth is inevitable and the district eventually will have to invest in new facilities and new technology.

The $42.5 million now will be returned to a general appropriation fund, but construction money from the state still would be available to the district, according to the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission.

"The district's current agreement with the OFCC will lapse this August," Jennell said. "The district will continue updating costs, enrollment numbers and plan options with the OFCC."

According to the OFCC, a "lapsed" district remains near or even at the top of the list for OFCC funds, but its local share of construction money then has to be raised first.

Jennell confirmed Southwest Licking would need to pass its local share of a bond issue before going back to the OFCC for funding.

"The district's next move will be determined by the board of education," Jennell said.

The bond would have been used to build a high school and an 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.

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