The financial advisory committee that's been poring for months over the Grandview Heights City School District's facilities has come up with a number: $55,250,000.

That's the estimated cost of the plan recommended last fall by Superintendent Andy Culp to renovate or replace the district's buildings.

The 14-member committee, which presented its report May 29, was asked to review Culp's plan and determine seven outcomes regarding funding, phasing and scope.

Committee members Jack Kukura and Katie Matney offered an overview of the group's report at a community engagement meeting held May 29 in the Grandview Heights High School auditorium.

The district plans to place a bond issue on the November ballot to address deferred maintenance and facility needs.

The proposed project would include construction of a new grade 4-8 building to replace Edison Intermediate/Larson Middle School, along with substantial renovations at the high school.

The committee also recommended the project include a connector between the new 4-8 building and the high school. This structure could provide additional classroom space if needed and also would serve as a evacuation space in case of a tornado.

The group suggested the facilities project include only essential repairs at Stevenson Elementary School, such as security upgrades and Americans with Disabilities Act compliance requirements.

"The purpose of our committee was to dive into the details (of the proposed plan) and make a recommendation to the superintendent that represents the best business and financial decision, taking into account both the short-term and long-term fiscal health of the district," Matney said.

"Some of the options we agreed with what the superintendent's decisions were; other options we didn't," Kukura said.

Security costs more

The addition of security components is one of the reasons the committee is projecting the cost of the project to be $55 million -- more than the $45 million to $50 million estimate included in the recommendation Culp presented last fall.

"There was a lot of concern about safety and security in the buildings, which costs more, so we could not come up with all the renovations at Stevenson," he said.

"We felt that the safety and security of our students is a top priority," Kukura said.

Enrollment in the district is expected to grow by 10 percent over the next seven years, Kukura said, and the committee thought it was important to make sure the facilities plan ensures the district's buildings can handle the growing number of students.

"We also want to make sure the space we plan is flexible space that can be used for a variety of purposes, including updated learning needs," he said.

The connector building would address that concern, Kukura said.

To avoid "value engineering" that resulted in deficiencies from past school improvement projects, high-quality materials should be used, which also cost more, he said. Construction costs in general are increasing, he added.

Some cost savings would result from the committee's finding that the district will not need to use modules to house students during the construction project, which would take about four years to complete in three phases.

The first phase would include the demolition of the Edison Intermediate gym and commons and construction of the new 4-8 building in the space between the high school gym and the current Edison/Larson school.

The timeline for the first phase is June 2019 to May 2021.

The high school, Stevenson and the academic portions of Edison/Larson and the annex building would remain in use during this phase.

During the second phase, high school students would move into the new 4-8 building in summer 2021. The high school renovation project would be completed between June 2021 and November 2022.

Stevenson Elementary School renovations would take place during the summer months of 2021 and 2022. The academic portion of Edison/Larson and the annex would continue to be used.

High school students would move back into the renovated high school, and intermediate/middle school students would move into the new building as the third phase begins in December 2022.

The old Edison/Larson building and annex would be demolished in January 2023 and other site improvements would be completed between January and July 2023.

The space now occupied by the Edison/Larson building and annex would be used for parking and green space, Kukura said.

Athletics left out

The committee has recommended that the project not include any of the $2 million in improvements proposed for the district's athletic facilities, Matney said.

Although components of the football stadium and athletic fields located across from the high school are in need of upgrades, "we didn't feel it would be fiscally responsible to go to the community to fund (those improvements) because we believe the school buildings were more important at this time," she said.

That is especially true given many improvements at Stevenson would continue to be deferred, Matney said.

Committee members also recommended the district include a 1.0-mill operating levy as part of the November ballot measure. The operating millage would be expected to keep the district financially solvent for four years.

The total new millage for the proposed facilities project would be 7.5 mills.

A total of 1.66 mills from a 1994 bond will expire in 2019, Kukura said. Removing that millage and adding the 1.0-mill operating levy would result in voters being asked to approve 6.84 mills. The committee is recommending a 38-year bond for the facilities work.

The committee estimated the levy would cost residents an additional $239 annually for each $100,000 of assessed property valuation.

The committee's full report is available at link.ghcsd.org/fac.

Residents can give their feedback by taking an online survey at link.ghcsd.org/survey. The survey will be open through June 14.

The public's feedback "will be inseparable from my being able to formulate and present a final recommendation at the June 27 board of education meeting," Culp said.

The committee's initial recommendations were just that -- preliminary -- and portions of the facilities plan could be revised before the final recommendation is made, Culp said.

The board is expected to vote on accepting a plan to place on the November ballot at its June 27 meeting, he said.

Prepared to fight

Members of the Good for Grandview residents group continued to express skepticism about the size and scope of the proposed project residents could be asked to approve.

The group formed after Culp made his initial recommendation, warning that the community would not support a $45 million to $50 million project.

"Despite the last reassessment that saw property values jump 30 percent and hearing repeatedly from residents about the need for an affordable facilities plan, the financial advisory committee presented an even more extravagant plan that manages to address fewer deferred maintenance needs," Good for Grandview member Elizabeth Bockbrader said.

"Though it's natural to be disappointed by this, it is important to recognize that the committee's recommendations are just that -- recommendations," she said. "It is also equally important to note that their plan does not make the superintendent's original $45 million plan any more reasonable or affordable."

Good for Grandview cannot rule out a potential campaign against a ballot issue, group member Steve McIntosh said.

"We are optimistic the board will ultimately determine that it does not want to shoulder the responsibility of putting the community through such a divisive process," he said. "That said, there are many engaged and informed residents who are prepared to campaign against any ballot initiative detrimental to our community."

The advisory committee's report "abandons the elementary school's needs," Good for Grandview's Rick Kinsinger said.

"If there's any validity to the 'bare minimum deferred maintenance' the district has been promoting for the last two years, then this plan guarantees that they will be coming back to taxpayers for even more money -- and quite soon," he said. "That is not consistent with the long-term plan the community was promised."

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