Issues for Pickerington school system, Violet Townshp roads on fall ballot

NATE ELLIS
nellis@thisweeknews.com
ThisWeek group

Local voters this November will decide the fates of a bond issue to build a new junior high school for Pickerington Schools, as well as a renewal levy to fund road and bridge projects in Violet Township.

Based on filings with the Fairfield County Board of Elections as of the 4 p.m. deadline Aug. 5, Pickerington Schools will seek a 2.9-mill bond issue that if approved would fund construction of a new junior high school, as well as upgrades to existing buildings and athletics facilities.

Additionally, the Violet Township trustees have placed a 1.5-mill renewal levy on the Nov. 3 ballot to fund the construction and maintenance of the township’s bridges and 108 miles of roadway.

According to district officials, the bond 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 current 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 has said revenue from the bond issue 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 June 9. “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.”

The Pickerington school board voted to place the bond issue on the ballot June 8 after district officials said enrollment in the 10,600-student district is expected to rise to 12,400 within 10 years.

If approved, the 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, that 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, area 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 data for students who are enrolling.

Additionally, the plan calls for Pickerington Central to be expanded with 24 additional 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 entrance.

“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.

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.

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

“With (the passage of) 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.”

Township roads and bridges levy

Additionally, the Violet Township trustees have placed a 1.5-mill renewal levy on the Nov. 3 ballot to fund the construction and maintenance of the township’s bridges and 108 miles of roadway.

The levy proposal would be for renewal of a levy voters last approved in March 2016.

Each year, the township collects about $770,000 in property-tax revenue to maintain its roads, providing for resurfacing work, snow and ice removal, street-sign maintenance, culvert replacement and mowing the rights of way.

That five-year levy expires in 2021. The new levy, if renewed, would go into effect immediately upon the expiration of the current levy.

“It’s just a renewal,” Violet Township Trustee Chairman Terry Dunlap said in January, when identifying this year’s priorities for the township. “It would not be new taxes.

“That’s been a major benefit for taking care of our roadways.”

According to township officials, the levy would cost homeowners $150 per $100,000 of house valuation as determined by the Fairfield County Auditor’s Office.

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