District might get state funds for work

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 6, 2000

Willow Wood – If all goes well next week, Symmes Valley School District will have the opportunity to make $3.

Thursday, April 06, 2000

Willow Wood – If all goes well next week, Symmes Valley School District will have the opportunity to make $3.5 million worth of improvements to its high school. The Ohio School Facilities Commission has approved the addition of more than 16,000 square feet to the existing structure, according to testimony before the House Committee concerning House Bill 631.

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And school officials expect to find out whether or not funds are available to make the improvements this year at an April 12 meeting in Columbus, Symmes Valley board member Jeff Floyd said.

"When we went to Columbus a month or six weeks ago, they said we were approved, but they had to make sure they had the money," Floyd said. "That’s where it is right now."

If approved, and the district can come up with $51,000 in local matching funds, this will be the continuation of a project that began 10 years ago. The district passed a 5.6-mill bond levy for a $10.3 million project in May 1990, which allowed the district to build a new elementary school and renovate the high school building, according to House Committee testimony.

The high school was built in 1962. Despite improvements 10 years ago, the building remains too small for its class size, Floyd said.

"We need more room," he said. "There are a lot of programs we can’t have because we don’t have facilities to do it. We’ve taken existing classrooms to make the library. If we get the funding, there will be a new library and I don’t know how many classrooms, but as many as we can get."

State law prevented the district from pursuing additional state funding for facility improvements until now, said Rick Savors, Ohio School Facilities Commission chief of communications and government relations.

"Symmes Valley was one of the districts that was approved as part of the Building Assistance Program, which predates the OSFC," Savors said. "The program was operated out of the Department of Education. The language in the law says a district cannot apply for new funds from the state until 10 years from the last time. Symmes Valley has a local levy and received state funds in 1990. They are eligible this year for facility needs to be taken care of."

Without this 10-year rule, Symmes Valley would have been eligible for additional funding earlier, Savors added.

"In 1997, when we started moving up the equity list, because of the 10-year rule, we had to pass over a lot of districts," he said. "Now that Symmes Valley is done with the 10-year rule, it is one of the districts that would be eligible this year for us to come in and evaluate."

And if House Bill 631 is approved, Symmes Valley could renovate the building without increasing taxes in the area, Savors said.

"There is language in the bill that allows local share options," he said. "In some instances the local share could be a fairly minute sum of money. And that would allow districts to look at other options, such as an income tax or paying with cash in hand instead of asking voters for another bond levy."

A decision on this issue is expected in May, Savors said.

"They are debating it in the House and Senate right now," he said. "I expect we’ll see a decision by the end of May."

And Symmes Valley plans to take advantage of House Bill 631 if possible, Floyd said.

"I guess we’re putting faith and confidence in that the bill will pass," Floyd said. "We don’t have the money yet, so we haven’t discussed other options. And, yes, the district could afford to pay the local match. The state asked us to put money aside for different projects. We’ll have some available in those set-aside funds. I just hope that when we go up there on the (April) 12, they say the money is ours."

Symmes Valley is expecting to receive approval for $3.5 million, which would include a $51,000 local match, according to House Committee testimony.