Licking County News

Southwest Licking board takes first step to put renewal levy on fall ballot

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Southwest Licking Board of Education President Don Huber broke a tie vote June 19 to approve a resolution of intent to place a renewal operating levy on the November ballot instead of a bond issue for facility construction and renovation.

"It was a tough decision," Huber said.

He and board members Dave Engel and Roger Zeune voted in favor of the operational levy and board Vice President Debra Moore and Daniel Bell voted in favor of a bond issue.

However, board members said they still might place a bond issue on a February special-election ballot. They said they did not know what the bond millage could be.

Huber said although placing a bond issue on the ballot is very important, he decided it would be best to place the operational levy on the ballot first to ensure the district could maintain its programs.

Moore said she agreed the operational levy is important, but added, "The bond issue is still fresh in voters' minds."

The district's most recent 6.1-mill bond request was defeated May 6. The bond issue 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.

Moore said the need for new classroom space still exists and the cost of renovations has increased $2 million in the past 18 months. She said renovations and construction could cost more four or five years from now.

"Of course, if there's no operating levy, there's no need for more schools," Moore said.

Superintendent Robert Jennell said "no new money" would be associated with the November emergency-operating levy because it would be a renewal.

Licking County Chief Deputy Auditor Brad Cottrell said June 20 he had yet to meet with Southwest Licking Treasurer Richard Jones to know exactly what the operational levy millage would be.

The deadline to file with the board of elections for the November ballot is 4 p.m. Aug. 6 -- 90 days before the election.

Since more classroom space is needed, board members approved the purchase of at least one, and possibly two, modular classrooms, at a cost of up to $150,000 each.

"We're packed full," Zeune said. "We definitely need (a modular)."

He said the first modular likely would be used at Kirkersville Elementary School and a second, if purchased, would likely go to Pataskala Elementary School.

"The modulars are really becoming expensive," Zeune said.

"We know we need one modular," Huber said, "maybe two."

"We're looking at another huge kindergarten class," Moore said. "We've used up space at Kirkersville."

She agreed with Zeune that the modulars are becoming expensive.

Moore said two modulars would be $300,000 and the state gives no financial assistance for modulars.

"That's all out of pocket," she said.

Moore said modulars, despite their expense, are only supposed to be a temporary fix for classroom space.

"A modular doesn't give you more room at the gym or in the cafeteria," Moore said.

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