Delaware City Schools officials said voters' approval of a district bond issue May 7 means quick action to implement a plan to upgrade the district's school buildings.

Final, unofficial results from the Delaware County Board of Elections showed the district's "no-new-millage" bond issue passed 2,420 votes to 1,302 votes, or 65% to 35%. Also May 7, a continuing permanent-improvements levy passed 2,621 votes to 1,117 votes, or 70% to 30%.

The bond issue is expected to raise $36.5 million over its lifetime, Superintendent Paul Craft said, and will add or renovate building space at Schultz, Conger, Woodward and Carlisle elementary schools and Dempsey Middle School. Facility upgrades also will take place at Hayes High School and Smith Elementary School.

The permanent-improvements levy had been renewed every five years for 30 years. It was approved as a continuing, or ongoing, levy at its existing collection rate, meaning it won't increase property taxes, Craft said.

He said the district expects the school-building projects to be constructed from March 2020 to August 2021.

A lot has to happen before then, he said, starting with the issuing of bonds between now and July.

"By the very end of July, we should be able to sell bonds and then have money the first part of August to be able to move forward with the projects," district Treasurer Melissa Swearingen said. "We have to put an official statement together that goes out to anyone who would be interested in purchasing our bonds. That takes about a month or so to complete."

The district also will have conversations with Moody's and Standard & Poor's to determine its credit rating, she said.

Craft said the district goes through that process only when about to launch major construction projects. The district's rating, he said, affects the interest rate the district will pay on the bonds, which affects the amount the bonds will raise.

This month, the district will begin detailed planning for the projects, a process expected to continue into October.

District spokeswoman Jennifer Ruhe said that level of planning could not begin until voters approved the bond issue.

"The bond issue actually pays for some of that architect work as well (as any construction), so financially you have to have the bond passed in order to ask an architect to go to that level of detail," she said.

Triad Architects, Columbus, has been preparing tentative plans and now will add details, she said.

Jason Sherman, the district's director of facilities and transportation, said the extent of the projects will depend in part on how much money is raised by the bonds, as well as current market conditions.

For example, he said, the cost of building materials has been increasing, and the construction labor market has been tight. The district will be prepared, he said, to select bid alternatives if pricing becomes a concern.

Craft said the district is optimistic it can achieve its desired objectives at each building.

As part of the planning process, Sherman said, the district administration will have conversations with educators at each building, "discussing how we can best make that space to suit their needs and putting all that together in a package."

The projects will include new classroom space at Schultz, Conger and Woodward elementary schools.

Bidding and selection of contractors is anticipated to occur in November and December, Craft said.

Ruhe said the permanent-improvements levy pays for materials and equipment that has at least a five-year life span, such as buses and computers.

From 2014-18, the annual total cost of those expenses has ranged from $1.7 million to $2.6 million, with $1.9 million the 2018 total.

"With the permanent-improvement levy also passing," Ruhe said, "it gives us an opportunity to start planning out projects, knowing that money is secured."

Sherman said the district has a plan in place each year that allocates permanent-improvements expenditures.

The district is grateful for the voters' support, Craft said.

The bond issue's approval "sets us up for that next decade of growth we see all around us," he said.

"So many people want to be part of this dynamic community. We need to be ready for that growth. The permanent-improvement levy helps us maintain what we do have," he said, referring to most of the city's school buildings that have been in operation for decades.

"The permanent-improvement levy is how we've been able to have our neighborhood schools operational for so long," he said.

While the issue was listed on the ballot at 2.37 mills, the net effect is that it will fund improvements "without raising anyone's taxes," Craft said.

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