School board discusses school facilities plan next steps
Cleveland Heights-University Heights school board members discussed funding scenarios and next steps for the schools master facilities plan at their June 18 work session.
Stephen Shergalis, director of business services for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights school district, summarized the funding options. The total projected budget is $206.2 million. Of that, $137.2 million would be funded through a projected bond issue of 5.9 mil, over 37 years. At that rate, the cost to residents would be $15.50 per month, per $100,000 valuation.
The funding options presented by Shergalis plan for the high school to be completed first—a change to the district's original plan C that the board had requested. In the updated version of plan C, construction on the high school would begin in 2013; construction on the middle schools (grades 4–8) would follow, beginning with Monticello in 2015, then Roxboro and Wiley. Construction on the elementary schools (Boulevard, Oxford, Canterbury and Roxboro, grades PK–3) would not begin until 2020. [See the construction timeline.]
The funding plan includes a projected $10 million in donated funds, and $6 million in grants. Nancy Peppler, board member, asked, "What is the thinking of the administration if some alternative funding scenarios don't come to fruition?" Shergalis explained, "The scope of work assigned to funds that are not assured can be pulled out of a project and we can still move on. We won't do that work."
Using the $10 million in private donations as an example, Shergalis said that without those funds, improvements to the high school nanatorium would include the roof and exterior masonry repairs, and any inside repairs that constitute safety improvements and are part of the district's $40 million in backlogged repairs. With the additional funds, nanatorium improvements would include new windows, pool deck, pool, locker rooms and the grandstand. Without the private funds, Shergalis noted, "There is no funding for the stadium," but added, "We are probably farthest along in identifying funding partners for the stadium."
Kal Zucker, board member, pointed out that renovating is less costly than rebuilding, and asked, "Why demolish Boulevard?" Shergalis replied, "The configuration of the building doesn't lend itself to additional investment." Doug Heuer, superintendent, added that, since Boulevard was constructed, the district has had 40 years of "work product experience," and that is is necessary to "reinvent the footprint" of the building to provide "natural lighting, good air quality and good acoustics."
Zucker expressed concerns about the total cost, and said, "I come from a business perspective, where every day my customers challenge me on prices. I think the community deserves for us to challenge this $206 million." Shergalis noted, "Remember, this is the budget, not the price." In reply, Zucker said, "From the standpoint of putting something on a ballot, I think you need to know what the budget is tied to."
Heuer laid out next steps for moving forward, to place a bond issue on the November ballot. At the July 3 school board meeting:
1) The board would need to make a recommendation to request approval from the Ohio Board of Education determining the district is a special needs district. [According to Angee Shaker, director of communications for the district, "The special needs designation is necessary to allow the bond issue to exceed the district’s borrowing limit, based on the total valuation of real property within the district."]
2) The board would need to pass a resolution authorizing the auditor to determine a millage based on the budget and to craft the ballot language.
3) The board would need to approve a letter to the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) outlining the comprehensive scope of the plan in order for the district to qualify for OSFC funding.
Then, at the July 17 meeting:
4) The superintendent will present a resolution to the board with the millage and final ballot language. If approved by the board, the treasurer would submit it to the county Board of Elections before the July 31 deadline.
Shergalis had noted that 1973 was the last time the district issued bonds. At the conclusion of the meeting, Peppler commented, "Maybe we have done our schools and students a disservice in not coming back more regularly for improvements. I hope by going big we can set the stage for something great for our students, for a long time to come."
Kim Sergio Inglis
Kim Sergio Inglis is editor-in-chief of the Heights Observer. She lives in the newly designated Shaker Farm Historic District in Cleveland Heights.