2008-05-17 / News

Election costs kill bid for athletic facilities bond levy

By Charles Prince

MILLERSPORT - Plans to place a $1 million bond issue on the August ballot to improve athletic facilities at Millersport High School have been derailed.

Earlier this year, a community group asked school board members to place a bond levy on the August ballot. The group pledged to pay all the expenses for the special election and to promote the issue. Election expenses were estimated at $8-9,000 if the levy was the only issue on the ballot. Superintendent Ron Thornton recently learned that the resignation of a computer specialist with the FairfieldCounty Board of Elections would increase the cost by $10,000. That's the cost to hire an outside firmto replace the computer specialist, since the board won't have a replacement on board by August.

That's way too much to pay for a special election, Thornton told board members Monday night. Board members reluctantly and unanimously rejected the third and final resolution to place the measure on the ballot. "It had to be done," Thornton explained.

"It's like putting your dog to sleep," member Vince Popo added. Thornton said the board would have to start the process over if they want to place the levy on the November ballot.

If voters had approved the one-mill, 10 year levy, the money would have been used to construct an all-weather track around the football field, add permanent rest rooms, replace the football field press box and move the visitors' bleachers.

In other business Monday night, board members accepted elementary school principal Cheryl Thomson's proposal to restructure kindergarten. Currently, the district has all day, alternate day kindergarten with one teacher. With 47 projected kindergarten students next year, including fivestudents that will probably be held back, Thomson is concerned about the high student to teacher ratio and limited time for individual attention.

Thomson said she "stole" a good idea from another district. By adding one teacher, students would attend all day, four days a week with likely Friday as the pivot day. Friday would be used as an intervention day, typically for students without preschool experience. For the first half of the school year, Thomson envisions the 12-14 students with the lowest scores on the assessment test attending on Fridays for more individual instruction from the two teachers. After the Christmas break, Thomson hopes the number still needing remedial help is cut in half, so one teacher can work with the highest achieving students on Fridays.

Thomson warned that if enrollment goes much over 50, they will have to return to the current all day, alternate setup. "I like the plan where they come back on Friday for remediation," Thornton said.

Board members also unanimously accepted three facility renovation bids:

• $323,700 to Haslett Hearing and Cooling to install the new roof-top units at the high school, refurbish air handler units, replace condensing units and replace pneumatic controls with electric or digital controls.

• $23,979 to M. G. Abbott to replace all pneumatic HVAC controls at the elementary school with electric or digital controls.

• $322,754 to Layton Excavating to pave and stripe the currently all-gravel parking areas at the high school.

With the approvals, all seven Phase I facility renovation projects are now under contract. They total $1,428,712 before architectural fees and permits. The other Phase 1 projects are roof replacements at the elementary and high school, new home bleachers for the football field, new roof-top HVAC units for the high school and a technology/phone system lease. The district has borrowed $3.2 million for the facility improvements which will be repaid out of current operating funds over the next 25 years.

"It will be quite a summer," Thornton told board members. "We're starting to look at Phase 2. This will be an 18 month project to get our district back up to where we should be."

District Treasurer/Chief Financial OfficerKirk Grandy presented a revised fiveyear forecast. For the current year, there is just a 2.5 percent difference between this forecast and the one he did last October. There are more substantial changes in the out years. Grandy said state officials warned districts with income taxes not to expect any increase next year. He is actually forecasting a drop since this year's total included some delinquent taxes. For years three through five, he is projecting a 1 percent annual increase in income tax revenues. Enrollment over the entire five-year period is projected at the current 648 students.

Grandy projects that the district will begin to deficitspend or spend more than it takes in, during fiscal year 2009 which begin July 1, 2008. That hasn't happened since fiscal year 2004. But thanks to cash balances, the district doesn't project a negative cash balance until fiscal year 2012. Districts are not permitted to have negative cash balances and this one won't materialize if voters renew both existing emergency levies. The first one covers tax years 2004-2008 and will be collected through 2009. It raises $258,000 a year and must be renewed in 2009. The second one covers tax years 2006-2010 and will be collected through 2011. It generates $250,000 a year and must be renewed in 2010. If both are renewed, Grandy projects a cash balance of $477,027 as of June 30, 2012. The projected cash balance for June 30, 2008 is $2,859,654.

Board members also approved a 4.5 year contract with Grandy. It runs through July 31, 2013. In other personnel issues, board members acknowledged the retirement of Julie Alfred, a fifth and sixth grade language arts teacher, after 22 years of service with the district. Thornton said she may seek to return in another position. Susan Moore's resignation as high school guidance counselor was accepted. She is taking a team position at Gahanna.

Thornton also explained a small change in athletic eligibility worked out by athletic director Mike Washburn and high school principal Roger Montgomery. Weekly grades are calculated for all high school students. If an athlete receives two D's in one week, the student is placed on probation for the next week and is still permitted to practice and play. However, if they have two D's or worst the next week, they are ineligible the following week.

"It makes it a little bit tougher," Thornton explained. "Academics should take precedence over athletics."

Washburn said it is primarily an issue of turning in homework.

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