Pickerington Local School District officials last week said they can't yet outline which facilities upgrades would be first to be addressed if a May 2 permanent-improvements levy is approved by voters, but they said the levy would provide revenue essential to planning for the district's future.

District voters will be asked May 2 to approve a 3-mill, permanent-improvements levy that, according to the district, would generate approximately $3.6 million annually for maintenance of current facilities, technology infrastructure, safety and security improvements and upgrades to district athletics facilities. The levy would cost property owners $105 annually per $100,000 of valuation, according to the Fairfield County Auditor's Office.

Before the levy was approved to be placed on the ballot, school leaders outlined $22.7 million in current facilities and equipment needs, which included building a new stadium with artificial turf and an eight-lane track at Pickerington High School Central, installing artificial turf and other improvements at the Pickerington High School North stadium and providing playground maintenance at all schools.

Overall, the district has identified the following needs that the levy would help address:

* Paving, $8 million.

* Roofing, $3.25 million.

* Mechanical systems, $7.8 million.

* Painting and carpet, $1.1 million.

* Safety and security, $860,000.

* Technology infrastructure, $1.7 million.

Officials, however, have not prioritized those projects or provided time lines for any to be completed.

"While it would be ideal to be able to tell the community, 'Here's an exact plan and timeline for the new construction,' getting to that degree of specificity requires extensive work with architects and engineers," said Valerie Browning-Thompson, Pickerington's superintendent who will retire June 30.

"Because that detailed work comes with some expense, much of it would not be performed unless the district had voter approval (of the levy)," she said.

"This kind of planning involves some design work, making cost estimates for multiple complex projects, projecting when contractors would be able to perform projects -- we wouldn't work on the PHSN turf in the stadium while the facility is in use, for example -- analyzing the projected revenue from the (permanent improvements) levy and other factors.

"Typically, we would not invest extensive resources on detailed plans until we knew we had voter approval."

Browning-Thompson said the same issues limit the district's ability to provide construction cost estimates.

"Again, until the architects develop detailed plans, it's impossible to say with certainty what those projects would cost," she said.

"Certainly, the highest profile, new projects are the proposed PHSC stadium and the work on the stadium at North.

"We already own the land on which the new Central stadium would be built. Our best construction projections, based on work done at other school districts, is that about half of the money generated by the PI levy would go toward new construction and half would be earmarked for ongoing capital programs."

The Pickerington Board of Education voted unanimously to move forward with the levy last November, and it's supported by a campaign committee called Vote for Pick Kids.

It also has at least a few detractors in the community, including resident Mindy Trout, who said she doesn't support creating a permanent tax.

"I absolutely oppose the levy," Trout said. "For one, it is permanent.

"Two, it is primarily for a want, not a need. It is for a new stadium for PHSC and turf for PHSN (and) it's very frivolous to ask taxpayers to foot the bill."

Trout said that if parents and the community want new athletic field turf, they should raise money independently.

Whereas the district, by law, cannot campaign for the levy, district spokesman David Ball said, the tax issue would create revenue not only for athletic facilities but also for buildings and equipment that house and support classroom activities and student safety. Those items would include fresh paint and new carpet in schools and roof replacements.

"A capital maintenance program is much like work done to maintain a home," Ball said.

"If you are a property owner, you know that eventually you will have to replace the shingles on your roof, repave your driveway, replace an air-conditioning unit, paint, replace carpet and perform other repairs and upgrades."

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