A 4.9-mill bond issue combined with a 0.25 percent earned income tax for the Northwood Local Schools District will be on the May 6 primary election ballot.
A similar bond issue and income tax proposal on last November’s ballot was defeated by just two votes.
The money is needed to fund the construction of a 130,000 square foot building for prekindergarten through 12th grade. The state, as part of an Ohio School Facilities Commission project, would pay $11 million of the $33 million cost. Under Ohio law, districts must raise their portion of the funds before state funds can be released for the project.
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Plans call for the new building to be located at Lemoyne and Woodville roads, where the current schools are currently located. Lark, Northwood Elementary, Olney and the classroom section of the high school would be torn down.
“The two story academic wing on the north side of the high school would come down,” said Superintendent Greg Clark. The high school common spaces, including the gym and auditorium, would be “buttoned up” for future student and community use.
“Bringing everything under one roof is where the state and our committee came down as being the most efficient way for us to move forward for the next 50 years,” added Clark. “We’ll be a lot more efficient by operating just a single cafeteria and heating and cooling all in one place.”
The state was not very supportive of building a new school at the present location, he said.
“They had concerns that it is so close to I-280, that there are major rail lines to the south of the property, and a petroleum pipeline goes through the property along Lemoyne Road. The folks from Columbus described that property as perfect for industry,” he said. The present site is popular for residents because it is where the athletic facilities are located. Though the state has approved the current location, it still wants school officials to look for a better site.
“They would like us to look for a more suitable central location,” he said. “They’re willing to let us put it on our current site as long as we don’t have the opportunity to build on property that is centrally located. And as of right now, we don’t have anything centrally located. If we pass the bond and income tax in May, we have a year of planning before any ground gets broken. If an opportunity for a central location becomes available at that time that is reasonably priced, we would have to look at it.”
The current school buildings are in bad shape, said Clark. The oldest school, Northwood Elementary, was built in 1938. The cost to renovate the buildings is not feasible.
“All the schools have major needs as far as infrastructure upgrades,” said Clark. A couple of the schools still have cloth covered electrical wire and old fuses. And to clean the floors, the custodian must unplug laptop charging carts overnight to avoid blowing a fuse.
“That’s how maxed out our power grid is in the buildings,” he said.
In addition, more demands are being placed on the staff and students.
“Our kids are learning more now than they ever have. The challenge is that the world continues to move at a pace that is very difficult for institutions to keep up with. That’s true for schools, government institutions, churches. It’s a tough time for all institutions now because our whole world is shifting in the information age.”
The district decided to go with a combined bond issue and earned income tax to reduce the burden on seniors in the community, according to Clark. The 0.25 percent earned income tax would not tax pensions or Social Security.
“If we were to go with a straight property tax, it would have been a 6.9 mill levy to raise the same amount of money to put the facility plan in place,” he said.
Clark is concerned the public is unaware how much expenses to build a new facility will rise in the future if the bond and income tax are not passed.
“Clearly, I believe this is the right time to do this. The state of Ohio is willing to invest over $11 million right now with us. If we don’t take advantage of the opportunity to share those expenses, it’s going to just cost us more later. The issues with the buildings will not go away,” he said.