New Albany News

Issue 50

District: Bond, levy would fund new building, prevent deficit

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Issue 50, the New Albany-Plain Local School District's combined bond issue and operating levy request on the Nov. 6 ballot, would be used to add more classroom space and prevent a deficit in fiscal year 2015, according to district officials.

The 2.59-mill bond issue would generate $45.1 million and the 4.24-mill continuous operating levy would generate $3.51 million. The bond issue would pay for a new non-grade specific building for 1,200 students; it includes $11.4 million budgeted for site improvements.

If approved, Issue 50 would cost property owners $209.24 per year -- about $130 for the levy and $79 for the bond issue -- per $100,000 of assessed property value. The owner of a home valued at $400,000, for example, would pay about $837 per year in additional property taxes for the bond and levy.

District voters approved a 24.4-mill permanent operating levy in 2008 to collect $21.7 million per year -- almost half of the district's roughly $50 million budget. The continuing levy, which was a first for the district, costs about $750 per year per $100,000 of assessed property value, or about $3,000 for the owner of a $400,000 home.

According to the Franklin County Auditor's Office, residents of the New Albany-Plain Local School District currently pay a total effective tax rate of between 82 and 94 mills. The school district contains four taxing districts that pay at different rates. In the Blendon Township portion of the school district, for example, residents are taxed at a rate of 93.44 mills because they also pay for three township levies: a road and bridge levy, a police-district levy and a fire-district levy. Residents in the New Albany Community Authority taxing district pay a special assessment of 4.75 mills, which brings their bill to more than 90 mills.

The school district receives less than 60 mills of residents' total tax bills, according to district officials.

District officials say the bond issue, currently estimated at a term of 37 years, is important because the schools have reached a critical enrollment level.

"We are currently 700 students over capacity and we have maxed out all of our temporary space," said district spokesman Patrick Gallaway. "A two-classroom trailer at 25 students per class can accommodate 50 students. Our enrollment projections predict that we are growing at a rate of at least 100 students a year and we could expect to add two additional trailers per year going forward (if Issue 50 is rejected)."

In the most recent districtwide survey completed by Saperstein Associates of Columbus, the majority of randomly chosen respondents said the biggest problem affecting the district is overcrowding.

To help with overcrowding, even if voters authorize Issue 50 to build a new building, Superintendent April Domine has said the district is working to find innovative ways to allow students to learn in other spaces, which would allow 300 to 400 students to engage in off-campus learning.

Domine suggested the district essentially could change how the high school is organized by creating an environment based on educational opportunities, such as upperclassmen taking college courses or participating in internships or exchange programs.

Regardless, she said, a new building will be necessary at current enrollment projections.

The district has not yet completed plans for a new facility, Domine said, because it wants to see if voters approve the bond issue. If Issue 50 is approved, the district will build using the budget approved by voters.

The district currently is considering building east of the 2-5 elementary and north of the middle school.

If Issue 50 is rejected, Gallaway said, the district will have to order more modular classrooms and increase class sizes.

It also would have to cut "millions of dollars from our budget in the 2014-2015 school year and even more in following years," with cuts likely including "reduction of staff, elimination of programs and reduction of service," he said.

If modular classrooms must be purchased or leased, Gallaway said, "decisions on placement would depend on proximity to where the space is most needed, (or) which school building. The district would need to evaluate best possible placement regarding the costs of running plumbing and electric to the trailers. It could be next to the existing trailers behind the 2-5 elementary. Every possible site would depend on the cost to run those utilities and set the foundation."

As for the permanent levy component of Issue 50, district officials say it is necessary because the 2008 levy has been stretched as far as it can go with the increasing enrollment.

"We know today that it costs about $12,000 to educate a student at the current level of academic support," Gallaway said. "We expect growth of 100 students per year, so that is $1.2 million a year and there is not additional funding flowing to the district to support that at this time."

District officials have referred to the 4.24-mill continuous levy as a "two-year levy" because it would prevent a deficit only the next two fiscal years. It would require the district to go back to the ballot in 2014, at which time district officials have promised to prove their fiscal responsibility to voters.

School board President Laura Kohler said the district chose the permanent levy over an emergency levy because the emergency levy would expire in two years and the permanent levy will continue after 2014.

"The difference between an emergency levy and a permanent levy is that what we're trying to do is to manage both expenses and revenue and develop almost a stair-step approach to funding district operations," Kohler said.

She said "it is a more prudent decision to provide more stable funding for the district" by asking for a permanent operating levy.

Kohler said before asking voters for more operating money, the district likely will share goals and achievements with voters and consider increased enrollment and inflation.

Several individual residents have publicly spoken out against Issue 50, but ThisWeek is not aware of an opposition group organized to oppose the measure.

 

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