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Facilities Committee Narrows Plans for Next Steps

Facilities Committee Narrows Plans for Next Steps

At the April 14 Master Facilities Committee meeting, the Board narrowed down several plan options to prepare for future community engagement sessions. The options, which fall into three different grade-band configurations, also include estimated costs associated with each.

“Within each grade-band configuration are different iterations for the Board to consider,” said Chief Operations Officer Chris Passarge. Additionally, the committee reviewed a matrix rating for each configuration on criteria such as academic achievement, teacher collaboration and safety.

The three grade-band configurations include: 

PreK, K-2, 3-6, 7-8, 9, 10-12;
PreK, K-3, 4-6, 7-8, 9-12; and
PreK, K-5, 6-8, 9-12.

All three configurations create a standalone preschool building. The new grade-band configurations eliminate the standalone freshman buildings, bringing grades 9-12 to the high schools. Additionally, some of the options include an additional facility which could be used as a central location for specialty high school programs such as the Lakota Cyber Academy, INCubatoredu@Lakota and possibly Butler Tech classes.” 

The Board determined that baseline option 1A should be included for feedback so that the community can review costs associated with keeping the district’s current facilities and the costs associated with the renovation that would be needed to keep them operational. Additionally, board president Lynda O’Connor noted the importance of the neighborhood school model to some families. “They like the neighborhood school model. They like that their kids come home from school together, they like that piece to it.” Passarge reminded the committee that this option would need to be funded completely by the district, as the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) would not approve this plan.

Additionally, the Board decided to bring options 2C, 3B and 3C to the community for feedback.

Option 1A (Current Configuration Baseline) Overview:

  • 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 $393,923,857.

Option 2C Overview:

  • A standalone preschool building, grades K-3, grades 4-6, grades 7-8 and grades 9-12;
  • Decommissioning 10 schools;
  • Building seven new schools; 
  • Building additions to both high schools; and 
  • An estimated master plan cost of $414,049,407.

Option 3B Overview:

  • 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 10 schools;
  • Building six new schools; and
  • An estimated master plan cost of $399,376,387.

Option 3C Overview:

  • A standalone preschool building; grades K-5, grades 6-8, grades 9-12;
  • Decommissioning 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 $408,597,309.

As discussed at the March 28 committee meeting, the Board will need to determine if they want to partner with the OFCC to offset some of the estimated costs of the final plan through the Expedited Local Partnership Program (ELPP). At this time, it is estimated that ELPP could contribute approximately 25% of the cost of an OFCC approved plan, which is roughly $100 million.

The March meeting also included a discussion of how the district would pay for the Master Facilities Plan. Along with Lakota’s treasurer and CFO Jenni Logan, John Payne and Andrew Brossart from Bradley Payne Municipal Advisors were on hand to present financing options to the Board. 

By taking advantage of lower interest rates and restructuring of debt, Logan and her team have saved taxpayers several million dollars. “We have restructured (our) debt with the goal to pay debt off sooner versus decreasing the millage rate,” explained Logan. The district has shifted its strategy from lower millage rates over time to maintaining a consistent millage for a shorter period of time.  Logan explained that this has been done purposefully to minimize the impact of a new bond issue, which would be required to finance the master facilities plan.  

Payne explained to the Board that when looking at the various facilities plans, they used $420 million in the estimates. With participation in ELPP, the cost would drop to an estimated $320 million. “For a major facilities project like this, (the bond repayment period would be) 40 years or below. Most schools are doing 38, 30 years,” he said. “This is not set in stone, that’s just how we do the assumptions,” Payne noted. He also cautioned that interest rates, tax valuations and other considerations could certainly change between now and when the district would decide to go to the taxpayers.

Payne further explained ballot language that would be required for two bond millage scenarios - one with the district fully funding and one partnering with ELPP. He emphasized that ballot language would not be the additional amount collected from taxpayers, and could be misinterpreted by voters. 

To fully fund a $420 million plan, the total estimated millage would be 5.38. By participating in ELPP and lowering the cost to an estimated $320 million, the total estimated millage drops to 4.1. However, because the district has restructured its debt payments to shorten the payment period of its existing debt, the actual additional amount collected would be much less. For the district to fully fund a $420 million plan, the campaign goal would be for the net overall increase to taxpayers to not exceed 2.6 mills, or $141.75 annually per $150,000 appraised home value. By partnering with ELPP and the State contributing $100 million and lowering the estimated cost to $320 million, the campaign goal would be for the net overall increase to taxpayers to not exceed 1.2 mills or $63.00 annually $150,000 appraised home value.

“1.2 mills, just to put it in perspective,” said Payne, “is where you’re targeting the increase in a taxpayer aggregate millage for bonds, compares to statewide average right around four mills for all bond issues since 2017. It’s a really nice place to be.”

Logan agreed and emphasized that “this is not by accident,” noting her team’s long-term planning at work. She also reiterated Payne’s point that what the ballot would show would not be the net impact to taxpayers and it would be crucial to communicate this to residents.

The committee will have many opportunities for community members to give feedback on the plans, beginning with a series of community meetings. 

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