2007-12-15 / News

Liberty Union to ask for 2.8 mill bond issue

By Charles Prince

By Charles Prince

BALTIMORE - It's official now. Liberty Union-Thurston School District voters will be asked to approve a 2.8 mill bond levy on the March 4, 2008 ballot.

The levy will raise about $6 million to pay the rest of the district's share of its some $30 million facility master plan. The state is paying 60 percent of the total cost and recently approved the release of $17,149,100. That money will be turned over to the district when voters approve the bond levy. The district has one year to get the levy approved. That clock started running two weeks ago.

Liberty Union has been waiting for years for its turn to participate in the Ohio School Facilities Commission's (OSFC) Classroom Facilities Assistance Program. In 2002, the district reached an Expedited Local Partnership Program agreement with OSFC which locked in the state's share and allowed locally funded work to begin. The district then raised about $6 million to renovate and expand the elementary school.

Building material inflation, particularly in the past two years, has taken its toll. That's why district officials hope voters will approve the bond levy the first time it's on the ballot. If that happens, work can begin next summer.

Here's the work plan. A new 65,000 square foot middle school for grades 5-8 will be built near the elementary school. The 83,000 square foot high school built in 1988 will be renovated. The much older 16,000 square foot auditorium/gym will be renovated. The rest of the existing middle school will be demolished, first to be used for additional parking then for future expansion of the high school if needed. The work will include room for a district office,probably at the elementary/middle school complex, a maintenance shop and an area to park school buses.

More than half of the cost of proposed levy will quickly be offset by the payoff of the 1988 high school bonds and the corresponding maintenance levy. Taxpayers were paying a total of 1.59 mills for those two levies in tax year 2006.

By renovating the high school and the auditorium/gym, the district ends up with 164,000 square feet, compared to an OSFC design of 118,000 square feet, based on a new middle and high school.

In other business Monday night, board members honored the students of the month - sophomore Bethany Starkey and senior Mikael Winkler. Debbie Howdyshell, the new high school librarian, was honored as teacher of the month. Howdyshell previously taught at the middle school.

Board members unanimously retained Fifth Third Securities, Inc. to handle the issuance of the bonds. The firmhandled the bond work for the elementary school renovation/expansion in 2002. An agreement with the Metropolitan Educational Council for the purchase of natural gas was also approved through the winter of 2011-2012. The council is an association of school districts in the Columbia Gas of Ohio service area that purchases natural gas through another party that more attractive terms. Membership in the South Central Ohio Insurance Consortium was also extended through June 30, 2011. Health care and insurance benefits for employees are purchased through the Consortium.

Board members selected John Hutton to serve as President Pro Tempore for the January 14 reorganizational meeting. That meeting begins at 7 p.m. on Monday, January 14 in the high school library, immediately followed by the regular monthly meeting.

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