UPDATED: Pickerington Schools to seek 2.9-mill bond issue Nov. 3

NATE ELLIS
nellis@thisweeknews.com
ThisWeek group

Pickerington Schools will ask voters in November to pass a 2.9-mill bond issue that would fund construction of a new junior high school as well as other upgrades to existing buildings and athletics facilities.

The Pickerington Schools Board of Education voted unanimously June 8 to place a 2.9-mill levy on the Nov. 3 general election ballot.

District officials said the issue would cost owners of a $100,000 residence approximately $101.52 per year.

Ed Laramie of the Fairfield County Auditor’s Office said based on the total valuation in the school district – which is a little more than $1.5 billion – preliminary estimates show the issue is expected to generate about $4.4 million annually.

District Treasurer Ryan Jenkins said the bond issue revenue would be used to repay the debt incurred for the facilities upgrades.

“When we sell the bonds, we will generate $95 million in proceeds to do the projects,” Jenkins said. “We then have to pay back the investors who bought the debt, which generates the bond proceeds.”

“Paying back the debt is what requires the (bond issue), and that (bond) is slated to be assessed at 2.9 mills and would generate the funds needed to pay back the $95 million that we borrowed from investors, plus interest, over the life of the repayment.”

Jenkins said the maximum maturity of the bond issue would be 38 years.

“That does not mean that the debt that we issue will be 38 years,” he said. “That is just the maximum period of time for which the debt can be issued.

“The length of time that bonds will be issued will depend on the interest rate environment at the time the bonds are sold, and how the debt is ultimately structured – the timing of the repayment of principal.

“In general, though, it is reasonable to expect that an issue of this size would be in the 30- to 35-year range.”

The bond issue decision comes after district officials said enrollment in the 10,600-student district is expected to rise to 12,400 within 10 years.

If approved by voters the bond issue would finance construction of a new junior high school that would serve up to 1,100 students. It would be built on 66 acres, known as the McGill property, the district owns on Lockville Road south of Opportunity Way.

The project is a centerpiece of district officials’ plans to address projected enrollment growth. Also on that property, the district would build a new stadium for Pickerington High School Central.

The school’s stadium sits in a flood plain behind Ridgeview STEM Junior High and does not have an adequate number of lanes on its running track to hold state-certified competitions.

The plan includes converting Ridgeview STEM into a building that would serve students in grades K-4 who are attending Heritage Elementary School and fifth- and sixth-grade students and students from the district’s Gateway Academy, a gifted-education program for students with superior cognitive skills.

Heritage would be converted into the permanent home of the district’s preschool program. It also would house the District Welcome Center, an office that processes students who are enrolling.

Additionally, the plan calls for Central to be expanded to add 24 classrooms, renovation of the school’s main entry for better security and an expanded cafeteria.

Pickerington High School North would see additional classrooms and construction of a more secure main entry.

“We know these are difficult times, but we must also plan for the future because overcrowding affects every student in the district, and temporary housing is more costly to the district in the long run,” said Lori Sanders, Pickerington school board president.

Pickerington Schools Superintendent Chris Briggs said the district has “utilized all available space in our buildings and existing facilities.”

“With time comes even more overcrowding and the needs facing us become more urgent,” he said. “In short order, we will have 1,000 additional students.

“Students need enough space to move in a hallway, space in the cafeterias to eat, places to sit in the auditorium and so much more.”

According to an enrollment study conducted for the district during the 2018-19 school year by Cooperative Strategies, the district will see an increase of 1,000 students by the 2023-24 school year.

Sanders said despite the economic uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the district must act to address the expected growth.

She said it would take two to three years, after passage of a bond issue, to construct and open the new junior high building.

“Schools will be returning to normal as quickly as possible providing the safest possible environment for students and staff,” she said. “What that looks like now will depend on guidelines set forth by the state of Ohio.

“We hope to have information to our community at the earliest possible time. Now, we have a chance to simultaneously meet the overcrowding needs facing our schools while taking advantage of very low borrowing rates for construction.”

nellis@thisweeknews.com

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