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State To Pay 84% Of Cost Of Pettisville School Bldg.

District Taxpayers Must Okay Levies


A new school building for the Pettisville Local School District moved closer to reality last week, as the school board voted to accept almost $17.6 million in state money.

Voters must approve additional taxes, enough to cover a local share of more than $3.85 million. Total cost of a proposed project is in excess of $21.4 million.

The district has been pursuing funding from the Ohio School Facilities Commission for many months. After lobbying efforts, the OSFC offered to fund a new school building for Pettisville, utilizing 82% in state funding, with an 18% local match.

But John King, school board president, said the public reaction to the proposed project is tentative.

He said voters in the school district realize the state’s offer of a $21.4 million school for a $3.85 million local share is “a rare opportunity.

“But the biggest issue has consistently been, ‘is this a good time to do that from an economic standpoint.’ The economy is tough right now,” he said.

“That’s a fair comment,” he said.

“Our challenge is to put together a plan for a facility that makes sense, that will be useful and valuable for the next 50 years.

“We need to have a discussion about whether or not we can afford this.

“Times are tough, but this is a rare opportunity,” he said.

Wednesday Meeting

Steve Switzer, district superintendent, said the OSFC officially offered to fund a new school for Pettisville, with an 82% state/18% local match.

In a special meeting, Wednesday, June 25, the board officially accepted the offer.

The board now has one year to pass tax levies to come up with the local matching funds.

Switzer said rough figures indicate Pettisville Local School District voters will have to approve a 5.5-mill property tax levy to support a bond issue, plus an additional one-quarter of one percent (.25%) to one-half of one percent (.5%) increase in the district’s income tax to fund the building.

He said for the owner of a home valued at $100,000, a 5.5- mill property tax levy would boost taxes about $170 per year.

The average yearly income of a Pettisville school district resident is about $44,000; the proposed tax hike would add about $110 per year to an income tax bill of someone earning $44,000 a year.

The board must complete several steps before property tax levy and income tax requests can be placed on the ballot, but the steps can be completed by the Aug. 21 deadline for the November ballot.

Building

The current proposal, Switzer said, calls for the new school building to be constructed behind, or to the south of, the current school building.

The new structure will connect to the 1994 gymnasium-li- brary-office addition. That addition would continue to be utilized.

The high school, the district’s first central school building built in 1929, would be razed.

Also scheduled for demolition is a portion of the current elementary school. The portion west of the boiler room will be retained.

If voters approve the necessary tax issues in November, construction will take about 30 months. Students will attend their first classes in a new building in Dec. 2010.

Why?

Some residents of the district are asking why the district needs a new school building, when district enrollment has been falling.

King said the facilities commission has projected the district enrollment, including open enrollment students, will remain flat for the next few years.

The need for a new school “is a pretty complex issue,” King said.

One argument, King said, is the current building does not support today’s teaching styles.

Teaching today involves more technology such as computers, more hands-on, activity-based learning, and more working in small groups.

In the past, students sat in desks in rows and listened to the teacher talk.

Another issue is security. King said the original buildings were not designed for the kind of security needs schools have today.

“It’s a sad commentary on the state of our society” that districts need to consider intensive security measures, “but we need to monitor guests and visitors, even in a district like Pettisville,” he said.

The current building’s infrastructure, particularly the buildings old boilers, will need expensive attention soon.

“There’s plenty of opportunity to put money into the old facility,” King said.

He said only a few rooms in the elementary school have air conditioning.

“With today’s learning, with the kinds of things we’re asking from our kids,” air conditioning is a plus, he said.

“At some point, we’re going to make a significant investment in the old building.

“Wouldn’t it be a better use of money to take advantage of this (OSFC) offer?” King asked.


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