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Tallmadge Schools in line to receive $13 million from state to improve facilities

funds a mix of THS credits, future construction contributions

by Holly Schoenstein | reporter Published: January 26, 2014 12:00 AM
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Tallmadge -- The Tallmadge City School District will soon be the recipient of nearly $13 million of state money to update school facilities.

The funds will come as a combination of credits for building the high school that opened in 2008 and contributions that will be put toward the construction of a new elementary school and renovation of the middle school.

The Board of Education took the first step toward securing the funding Jan. 15 when it authorized the school district administration to send a letter of intent to the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission. The letter states the school district will accept the money when it becomes available, which the OFCC anticipates will be for the funding cycle that begins in July 2014 or July 2015 at the latest.

According to Superintendent Jeff Ferguson, the school district expects to be informed by March as to when the funds will be available.

The district has been waiting in line for the state funding for more than 10 years, district officials say.

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The OFCC, formerly the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission, oversees capital projects for public school districts, state-supported universities and community colleges, and state agencies.

The OFCC completes 50 to 100 new or renovated buildings on average each year, according to Commission spokesman Rick Savors.

New elementary school, renovation

of middle school

Tallmadge Schools' dream of completing its master facilities plan by building a new elementary school and renovating the middle school is again coming into focus.

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Phase 1 of the plan was completed when the new high school was built.

In November of 2012, voters turned down a 3.51-mill levy that, if passed, would've raised $27.5 million over 35 years, the entire cost to build a new elementary school on the property where the David Bacon building sits on Strecker Drive. This would have taken care of Phase 2.

The third and final phase is a renovation of the middle school. At the time, district officials said the cost to complete this phase would be about $19 million.

But now that Tallmadge Schools' turn for receiving the state funding is nearing, school district officials say the difference for whether taxpayers will support a levy that would generate the money to bridge the gap between the state's contribution and the cost of the new elementary building could be having the money in hand rather than a promise the state will someday reimburse the school district.

Ferguson said a proposed levy would be smaller because the state's contributions for all three phases would offset the total cost, if the school district decides to combine the projects in one levy. Combining the projects isn't required to get the state funding, he said.

The OFCC's funding package will include reimbursement of 22 percent of the cost to build the new high school, or $6.6 million in credits. It also will include 22-percent contributions from the state for both Phases 2 and 3.

Ferguson said the master facilities plan might be revised to incorporate updated research, including enrollment figures. For this reason, he said the cost to build a new elementary school is unknown at this time.

Putting a price estimate on a middle school renovation is difficult as well because it's an older building, he said. The middle school was built in 1960.

After notifying the district when it will receive the funding package and before it actually disburses it, the state must approve the district's master facilities plan, and the district must secure funding to complete Phase 2. The district would have about one calendar year from when the OFFC triggers the funding cycle to execute Phase 2.

School officials say the master facilities plan that is in place is the same that was presented to voters in November 2012.

"The focus remains our K-8 facilities," Ferguson said in a prepared statement given to the Tallmadge Express after the meeting. "The facilities serving our K-8 students have served us well for the past 50 to 60 years, but the condition of the buildings coupled with rising maintenance costs are a hindrance as we strive to exceed standards and compete with similar communities."

Dunbar Primary School and Munroe Elementary School were built in 1940s and 1960s respectively. Some improvements have been done to the buildings, including adding secure vestibules that last summer.

Ferguson said the "forward-thinking" administrators and community members who made building the elementary schools possible back then is similar to what's happening now.

"There's no reason for me to not think we're going to be taking care of the children in Tallmadge schools for up to another 50 years ... The opportunity to take care of all of the students in Tallmadge -- K-12 -- long-term is very exciting," he said.

Contact this reporter at 330-541-9428 or hschoenstein@recordpub.com

Facebook: Holly Schoenstein, Record Publishing Co.

Twitter: @SchoensteinH

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