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Community Input Wanted on MFP Plan

Lakota Local Schools has launched summer meetings to gather feedback from the community about its Master Facilities Plan (MFP) options. “This is just the beginning of the process,” said Superintendent Matt Miller at the June 6 meeting, which was held at Woodland Elementary School. “There is much, much more to come.” The recording of the meeting is available on Lakota’s YouTube channel.

After pausing the committee work twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the entire Board of Education and facilities committee have fully engaged in the planning process. At its April 14 committee meeting, the Board narrowed down plan options to four. The district is asking community members to share their thoughts, questions and concerns about each of the plans through ThoughtExchange. There is one exchange for each option.

Option 1 (Current Configuration):

  • Keep all existing buildings and grade-band configuration of preschool included with two existing buildings, grades K-2, grades 3-6, grades 7-8, standalone freshman buildings, grades 10-12;
  • Additions will be needed on most buildings throughout the plan; and
  • An estimated master plan cost of $514 million.
  • Share your feedback through ThoughtExchange.

 Option 2:

  • A standalone preschool building, grades K-3, grades 4-6, grades 7-8 and grades 9-12;
  • Decommissioning (closing) 10 schools;
  • Building seven new schools; 
  • Building additions to both high schools; and 
  • An estimated master plan cost of $508 million.
  • Share your feedback through ThoughtExchange.

 Option 3:

  • A standalone preschool building; grades K-5, grades 6-8, grades 9-12 and a third building to be used for specialty high school classes;
  • Decommissioning (closing) 10 schools;
  • Building six new schools; and
  • An estimated master plan cost of $491 million.
  • Share your feedback through ThoughtExchange.

 Option 4:

  • A standalone preschool building; grades K-5, grades 6-8, grades 9-12;
  • Decommissioning (closing) 10 schools;
  • Building three new schools, including two new high schools; 
  • Using the current high schools as middle schools; and
  • An estimated master plan cost of $502 million.
  • Share your feedback through ThoughtExchange.

At the committee’s May 9 meeting, Chief Operations Officer Chris Passarge informed the Board that the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) has announced a 17% increase in new construction and a 20% increase in renovations. These increases are accounted for in the above cost estimates.

State Funding Options

The Board may choose to partner with the State to receive partial funding of the plan through the Expedited Limited Partnership Program (ELPP). Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer Jenni Logan explained that the State ranks Ohio’s 609 school districts in order from least wealthy to wealthiest based on the valuation per student. Lakota is currently ranked 432. In comparison, the district was ranked 476 in 2018.

The State uses this ranking to determine the funding percentage a district can receive through ELPP. Last year, Lakota was eligible to receive 25% reimbursement. Now, that amount has increased to 29%. 

In order to receive the funding, the Board must pass a resolution to join ELPP and choose a plan that is approved by the OFCC. Based on the OFCC’s evaluation of Lakota’s buildings, ELPP funds could only be applied through renovation of schools that are in satisfactory condition and replacing, or building new schools, those determined to be deficient in relation to its current building standards. Lakota currently has nine satisfactory schools and 10 deficient schools. Three schools are considered borderline, which means that the OFCC may be willing to approve some renovations instead of forcing the district to rebuild.

Logan further explained that option one would most likely not be eligible for any co-funding through ELPP, meaning the district would be forced to pay for the complete plan. Options two-four are eligible for the 29% co-funding. The funding is expedited, meaning the district would earn credit for projects completed on an approved plan until ELPP reimbursement becomes available.

Plan Timeline

Each plan is broken into three phases. The first five years of construction would most likely be funded through a future bond issue. The second phase, with the exception of option one which would most likely not qualify for ELPP, would be funded through a combination of the future bond issue and ELPP credit. This phase would take place during years five-ten. The third phase, year 10 and beyond, should be funded through ELPP credits, with the exception of option one.

Impact to Taxpayers

Logan explained that, once the Board votes on a final Master Facilities Plan, it will be necessary to ask our residents for their financial support through a bond issue. Like a homeowner buying a new house and taking out a mortgage, the district would also need to finance its facilities plan. She also made it clear that the district has been preparing for this and has taken significant steps to ensure that the financial impact on taxpayers is minimal.

Lakota hasn’t been on the ballot to ask for additional funding since 2013. The levy at that time was a combination of permanent improvement (PI) and operating funds for a total of 5.5 mills (2.0 mills for PI and 3.5 for operating). PI funds are used for projects that have a lifespan of at least five years, such as facilities and technology.

When Lakota would be on the ballot is still unknown. “The first time we could actually look at that is May 2023,” said Logan. “Then the following would be November 2023.” Logan, and other district leaders, also know that community members want to know how many additional mills the district will request.

Logan and her team have been preparing for the MFP. “Just like all of you have been taking advantage of lower interest rates, we’ve refinanced district debt,” she explained. “We’ve also tried to pay off our debt earlier...and restructure our debt.” These steps have been taken to minimize the impact a new bond issue would have on Lakota’s taxpayers.

“When we would be asking for a bond issue, at the same time we are going to be paying off debt. The net overall increase to you, as the taxpayer, would be minimal,” Logan told the audience. Currently, residents currently pay over three mills to the school district for its current debts, which will be mostly paid off in 2028. As this debt is paid off, the district would replace it with new debt incurred from the MFP. Logan compared this to a car owner who buys a new car just as they’ve paid off their old one. “If your payment is $800 a month (for your old car)…you get a new car and you still have that $800 a month payment, but you have a new car.” 

Until a final plan is approved by the Board, and details are finalized, Logan can only share a range of possible mills with the community. “If we looked at an ELPP project…where we are partnering with the State, we would be looking at a net increase in millage of 1.5-3 mills and if we went alone, and did not partner with the State, we would be looking at approximately 3.75-5.25 additional mills that we would need to collect.”

A mill is the annual tax rate applied to an assessed value of property. One mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of assessed value. Assessed value is the taxable value calculated at 35% of the total property value. This is the figure that is on file at the Butler County Auditor’s office and differs from an appraised value. For example, if a home is valued at $100,000, the taxable value is 35% or $35,000. To determine the tax per mill, divide $35,000 by 1,000, which equals $35 tax per mill.

Next Steps

Parents, staff and community members are encouraged to watch the video of the June 6 meeting and participate in the ThoughtExchange to share their feedback on each option. Community meetings will continue, with the Board scheduled to vote on a final plan in late fall.

  • Master Facilities
  • thought exchange