This Spring there are a few important items I would like to share with you ranging from an update on where things stand with our school facility plan to the joys of the rites of passage that come in the Spring of each school year.
For years now, I have been writing in this column that our school buildings are in great need of major and costly work to make them adequate to serve the educational needs of the twenty first century. I also have been writing about us just do the things we have to do to get by (band aid fixes) until it was our turn to access state funding to address the major issues we face. A quick look at our parking lot with all of the patches illustrates this point. Our wait for state assistance is over and the time for us to do what needs to be done is NOW.
Our school was notified in December of 2012 that we were finally eligible for state assistance. Preliminary work with the State of Ohio was completed in 2002 and again in 2008. An updated assessment of our buildings and grounds was completed in the Spring of 2013. Working with the State of Ohio, an architectural firm and 61 participating citizen volunteers over the course of several months, our school developed a comprehensive plan to address the needs while focusing on making the solution as affordable as possible for the community.
The plan that was recommended by this committee was accepted by Board of Education in the summer of 2013. It calls for building a new 130,000 square foot modern facility that would serve our students from Pre-School through Twelfth Grade on the current site. The 1938 Building now known as NES, the Olney Building and the Lark Building would all be torn down. The two story classroom wing of Northwood High School would also be torn down, but the remainder of that building would be maintained for continued use by the school and community.
Now is the time to make this wise investment in our community. We are not likely to ever be able to address our facility needs for less of an investment by those of us who are tax-payers. Now is when interest rates on the money we need to borrow to pay for the project are at near historic lows. Now is when construction costs are still low due to the recent recession. Now is when the State of Ohio is willing to contribute over 11 and a half million dollars to our community. Now is when our district has entered into tax abatement agreements with businesses and has reserved those dollars to lower the contribution to the project by our community members.
Here is how we pay for it now:
The State of Ohio Contributes: $11,557,585
The 4.9 Mill Property Tax Contributes: $10,870,000
Leveraging Local Resources (Tax Abatement Agreements) Contributes: $7,494,087
The ¼% Earned Income Tax Contributes: $3,100,000
Total Project Cost: $33,021,672
A great deal of thought has gone into this to try to make this as fair as possible to our community members while leveraging other resources to lower the overall amount. The ¼% Earned Income Tax raises about what 2 mills of property tax would raise. It does not tax pensions or Social Security which reduces the investment amount for most of our senior citizens. Leveraging the Tax Abatement Agreement Dollars lowers the investment amount for all of us. And of course having The State of Ohio contribute $11,557,585.00 reduces our local investment a great deal. To complete our Facility Plan today by ourselves with no state assistance and no Tax Abatements with a simple Property Tax Bond Issue, we would be coming to the voters to approve a levy in the neighborhood of 15 mills. Given these numbers, it is clear that now is the right time.
Should we choose not to take advantage of now being the right time, Total costs of the project will go up due to general inflation while construction costs and interest rates are likely to go up as well. I believe the following scenario is likely:
We still have the old buildings with daily expensive needs to put band aids on. We will be forced to use the Tax Abatement Agreement Dollars as we receive them to apply said band aids until those dollars are gone. At that point, when the Ohio Schools Facility Commission will have done its work across the state and may very well no longer be around to help us at all, we will still have even older buildings with even more expensive daily needs. We are likely to think those ongoing costs are unsustainable and we need to build new more efficient facilities (which is already the case). To do that, we will once again have to come to our community and ask them once again to invest. Except then, the local share of the investment will likely be for the ENTIRE cost of that Facility Plan. We are in a “pay me now or pay me a lot more later” situation. If you are interested to know what 15 mills looks like, take the value of your home x .35 x .015.
While we are in the midst of this school year with a great deal yet to accomplish, preparations for the 2014-2015 school year are well under way. Our staff members are all working hard to be up to speed on the implementation of a new set of Ohio standards as adopted by our elected leadership in Columbus. The curricular demands on our students continue to increase and the
Third Grade Guarantee is a challenge for both our students and our school. As you know, implementing new ways of doing things always brings growing pains for all involved and this new set of standards has them as well. For those of you interested in learning more about what is now being asked of our students and our school, I encourage you to visit the Ohio Department of Education website which can be found by typing the following address in your browser window: http://education.ohio.gov
Also from our state capital, the budget for the state of Ohio for the next two years has been proposed by Governor Kasich and is working its way through the legislative process. I encourage all Ohio citizens to be engaged with this process because the outcome is important to everyone and critical to our school and community. It is my hope that the process ends up living up to the Governor’s commitment to no further cuts. If that is the case, the changes we have instituted in the district will allow us to not ask for additional operating funds locally any time soon.
Spring is here and with it the winding up of another productive school year with all of the celebrations and rites of passage that mean so much to our students, staff and family members. It is a wonderful time marked with celebrations of growth and milestones creating memories for a lifetime. Far too often this time of year is also marked by tragedy associated with the “celebrations” that occur. Everyone who is a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, neighbor or friend of a teen shares the responsibility of ensuring these events are safe. Please do your part to keep our season of celebration safe for all of our kids this year.
The ongoing support of our community shows a real commitment to maintaining excellent educational opportunities for our children. Here at school, we recognize this is an investment in the future prosperity of our community as well as the right thing to do by our children. Providing excellent educational opportunities is not an endeavor we can accomplish on the cheap, but our school district is keenly aware that resources are limited and we must use them wisely.
Our commitment is to provide the best educational opportunities given the resources we have available to us. As Superintendent of Northwood Schools, I am proud of our community and of our school and sincerely believe we are up to meeting the challenges as well as seizing the opportunities that lie ahead.
As always, I welcome your questions, comments and suggestions.
Northwood Local Schools
500 Lemoyne Road
Northwood, OH 43619