Bellefontaine Examiner

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WL-S building renovation project: You spoke, we listened

Dear WL-S Community:   

On Aug. 6, voters will have an important decision to make regarding the future of our school district. Our community will have a second opportunity to vote on the Ohio School Facilities Commission renovation project for West Liberty-Salem Local Schools. Although much of the project has remained the same, there have been changes made that greatly reduce the cost and improve the project. These changes were made in response to feedback from the community after the November 2012 results. Lower cost and a change in the way the project is funded were the two main points taken from community meetings and surveys conducted by the district.

The district has reduced the overall cost of the project by $3.5 million dollars. Finding alternative solutions to local project goals eliminated the need for a second gym to improve cafeteria and instructional space. A review of the local share budget with the state determined that out locally funded initiatives could be reduced by the state’s share of the project. This also helped to lower cost locally. The $3.5 million reduction in our local share reduces our local cost from $14.5 million to $11 million. This includes approximately $1.5 million in LFI’s, locally funded initiatives.

The LFI’s that remain in the project focus primarily on safety and security of students on the school campus. Improving school safety and security is a priority of the district. We want the families of WL-S students to know that children are safe during the school day. Currently the WL-S campus does not meet current standards for building safety and security. The OSFC project will include safety and security improvements that would be difficult to afford otherwise. This project, if passed, will provide a single, secured front entrance for all visitors as well as improved security to all wings of the building with secured entries and modern video surveillance. Traffic flow will also be improved with designated student, parent and bus drop-off locations providing safer access and traffic patterns on campus and to HWY 68. This should eliminate traffic backups and crossover of pedestrian and vehicle traffic. Remaining local project dollars will be used to improve student dining and instructional space and functionality. This will improve the capacity to serve our students lunch eliminating long waits for food and loss of instructional time.

The funding source for the project will be a combination levy. A combination levy allows our school district to pay for the project using a .25 percent income tax and a 3.62 mill bond levy. Each of these will fund approximately 50 percent of the cost for the life of the building project. This reduces the property tax millage by over 50 percent and helps to balance impact across the community.

As a school leader I understand the importance and impact this project will have for the education and safety of our current and future students. As a citizen of WL-S I respect our community’s viewpoints about being wise with our tax dollars. This project supports both of these beliefs. By accessing the states 71 percent share, the complete renovation of this building will cost us less than addressing the replacement of our roof, heating/air, windows, modular classrooms and security/technology improvements. All of these items are urgent and must be addressed by this community. The bigger benefit is the impact this project will have on the education of our students. Much has changed in the world since the WL-S building was completed in 1988. By participating in the OSFC project, the state will help our community bring our building up to current standards to be able to support and provide the most recent changes and best practices in education. This includes the elimination of outside modular classrooms, enlarging current classroom spaces, and significant improvements to science, computer and instructional resources.

Why are we on the ballot in August? The longer we wait the more this project will cost the community. This is our last chance at the 71 percent state share and locked in pricing that expires at the end of August. WL-S locked in this rate last July and it was guaranteed for one year. Each September the state ranks all the districts based on their assessed valuations. For example, two years ago our state share was 75 percent. As of late, with higher farm ground prices, our district has been increasing in property wealth. Because of this, had we not locked in the 71 percent rate last July, our current state share would be 68 percent. This three percent reduction would result in over $1,000,000 or state funding that we would lose, in turn, increasing our local share. Based on recent trends, I feel our state share, after August, may decrease more.

A more recent change to tax law made July 1 will eliminate the 12.5 percent rollback credits for property taxpayers on new and replacement levies beginning Nov. 1. This August will be our last chance for all property owners to take advantage of these credits on new property tax levies. If this levy is passed in August, property owners will continue to receive the 12.5 percent rollback each year for the life of the bond issue.

The time is now for our community to improve our school and save valuable local tax dollars. Any delay will only increase the cost to the WL-S community in the future. Our school district, our building and our children are worth the investment.

Kraig Hissong
West Liberty-Salem Schools

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