Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools is moving forward with a three-part tax issue to be placed on the Nov. 3 ballot.
If voters approve, the issue would finance the construction of a new Lincoln High School at its current site and additions to other district buildings and provide operating funds.
The board of education in a 5-0 vote approved a resolution of necessity for a bond issue and levy of a tax during a special meeting via Zoom on June 29.
Voting ‘yes’ were Beryl Brown Piccolantonio, board president; Jennifer Chrysler, board vice president; and board members Matthew Campbell, Bryan Hairston and Daphne Moehring.
The board selected a 30-year term for a 1.5-mill permanent-improvement levy as opposed to a continuing levy.
Treasurer Mike Verlingo said the 30-year term for the improvement levy matches the term of the certificates of participation so “The levy drops off once that debt is paid.”
To respect voters to match the repayment to the term, Moehring said, her preference is the 30-year term.
Her colleagues concurred.
Steve Barrett, district superintendent, said the board action marked the next step for putting the tax issue on the ballot.
“What this allows us to do is move forward with a bond for phase two and the operating levy,” he said.
The deadline for filing any issue with the Franklin County Board of Elections for November is 4 p.m. Aug. 5, according to the board of elections website.
He said the millage request for the second phase of the Master Facilities Plan would include a 4.93-mill bond issue and 1.5-mill permanent-improvement levy for a total of 6.43 mills.
He said the district also has a need for a 4.26-mill operating levy to hire additional staff to keep pace with the growing number of students entering the district, as well as additional costs related to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The levy would appear on the ballot with the bond and permanent improvement levy as a combined request of 10.69 mills.
Barrett said the district has deferred this ask for a long time, and that has made the project costly.
He said construction costs in central Ohio have accelerated over the last 24 months. Generally, construction costs increase by about 3% a year, Barrett said.
Recently, construction costs have been increasing over 3% a quarter, he said.
“We have waited a long time to address our high school needs, and while it will be expensive to build a new high school today, it will become so much more expensive the longer we wait,” he said.
Brown Piccolantonio said the board and district leaders are well aware of the difficult timing of the proposal.
She said the assessment of the facilities and projected enrollment growth started before any of the current board members or the superintendent and treasurer were in place.
“This is a process that has gone on for many years,” she said.
Brown Piccolantonio said nobody underestimates what is being put in front of the community.
“And this is also the culmination of years of time and deliberations spent on the issue of what is it this district needs to order to best serve our kids for the years to come,” she said.
“I do know this is a difficult time and, at the same time, it is exciting for our district. It will finally address the needs this district has now and will have for years to come.”
Moehring said the information that is compelling to her is that at the end of the 2019-20 school year, the district is at 116 % capacity in K-5 buildings and 104% for 6-8 buildings, and the high school isn’t functionally safe or convenient in getting from one part of it to another.
“Sadly, we’re in a pandemic,” she said. “So it’s a tough time to be putting such a joyous and positive thing out there. But we must do this at this time to honor the work of the Master Facilities Committee and knowing this doesn’t happen on a dime. Even if this passes, there’s two years of preparation before a high school can be started.”
Chrysler said there have been months of community discussions and the Master Facilities Committee has agonized whether there should be a second high school, and whether the building structure should remain or have improvements.
She said she hopes voters see there was a conscious effort to formulate a plan around what their neighbors and those who participated wanted.
Chrysler said she hopes constituents know the board wants to put students and education first.
“I support running the PI concurrent with bond issue, Chrysler said. “I hope it sends a message to voters we aren’t asking for more than what we need.”
Barrett said the project would meet facility classroom needs and accommodate additional student population growth for the next 50 years.
“Not to do this is to live with crowded hallways, trailers and parking lots and very crowded buildings,” he said. “It will set us up in a good place for the next several decades.”