The Canal Winchester school district will not ask voters in November to pay for any part of a $24.3 million high school construction and renovation project.

The Canal Winchester school district will not ask voters in November to pay for any part of a $24.3 million high school construction and renovation project.

Thanks to healthy finances and a bit of rethinking by the board of education, voters will not see a 23-year, 0.5-mill maintenance levy on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Board members voted 4-1 -- with John Metzler opposed -- at a special meeting Aug. 29 to rescind a previous decision to seek the levy.

Earlier this year, the district decided to use funds from the state to renovate the high school and build a 55,000-square-foot addition to ease overcrowding. The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission Facilities Assistance Program requires the district to provide a portion of project costs -- in this case, the local share will be $5.5 million to $6 million.

District officials did not intend to ask voters to help cover that amount but were planning to seek approval of the maintenance levy to set aside $209,000 each year for 23 years to maintain the facility.

Superintendent James Sotlar estimated the levy would have cost about $18 annually per $100,000 of property valuation.

Board members reviewed several options Aug. 29 for funding the maintenance program with David Conley of Rockmill Financial, the company that handles some of the district's investments.

One was to keep the maintenance levy on the ballot. Another was to remove the levy from the ballot and use inside millage or transfer money from the general operating budget into a permanent improvement fund to pay for the $209,000 annual share.

Treasurer Nick Roberts said a second look at the district's financial picture showed that it could provide the funds to cover maintenance of the addition to the high school.

"You have to show the obligation that you can put X amount of money aside -- a half-mill aside -- and how you do it is up to you," Sotlar said.

The last option caused a small debate on whether it would be better for the district to go for the maintenance levy in order to get an extra $50,000 each year from the state as part of its equalization program. Those funds, according to Conley, are not guaranteed to be in the state budget.

With buildings in the district aging, some board members considered keeping the levy on the ballot in order to receive additional funds from the state or giving voters the option to decide which route to take.

Board member Brian Niceswanger said he favored taking the levy off the ballot.

"I think what we heard from David and the research is that we can afford to fund it, so if we don't have to go to the taxpayers to ask for it, I say we don't ask them for it," Niceswanger said.

After the vote, Sotlar said the board's decision was the right one.

"This is a win-win for the district," he said. "With our conservative spending over the last couple of years, we have built up a pot of money which now we are spending for good use for our school facilities."

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