November 23, 2014

Elyria
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Wellington Schools to place smaller bond issue on November ballot

WELLINGTON — After two defeats at the polls, the Wellington school district plans to ask voters in November for a smaller bond issue to build a new school.

The district is seeking approval to build a $32.6 million school for grades three to 12, Superintendent Francis Scruci said Thursday.

Earlier bond issues for a $47 million kindergarten-through-grade-12 school failed twice — once last November by 30 votes and again in February by almost a 2-to-1 margin.

Keeping Westwood Elementary for kindergarten, first and second grades could help make the new proposal more attractive, Scruci said.

“People really want us to keep Westwood,” he said.

The Ohio Schools Facilities Commission would still require the school district to renovate Westwood at some point, but that project could take place in the future, Scruci said.

Having just three grades at Westwood would allow the district to put preschool there if Gov. Ted Strickland is successful in bringing preschool to Ohio school districts, Scruci said.

A final decision must be made by Aug. 20 if the school board wants to put a bond issue before voters in November.

The superintendent said several other factors also could make the project more palatable — even in difficult economic times.

This is an opportune time to build because contractors are in need of work, Scruci said. The new Elyria High School could come in substantially under budget, Scruci said.

Wellington Schools applied for up to $10 million in stimulus money that would be paid back over 16 years at zero interest, also reducing the cost for taxpayers, he said, and the district expects to get word on Monday about whether the district will be approved for the stimulus money.

“We have reason to believe we’re going to get some money,” he said.

State budget bills passed recently also allow Wellington one more attempt at getting the 46 percent state funding. The district had been told earlier that the state share would drop to 44 percent if it had not passed anything by August, and the state share is expected to drop to 41 percent in 2010.

“This is our last-ditch attempt,” Scruci said of the planned vote in November.

One more factor could bring the cost down for taxpayers, he said. Instead of spreading the bond issue over 28 years, the district is considering a bond that lasts 37 years, he said. A new state law allows bond issues to be spread over 40 years, he said.

“If we can make it cheap enough in terms of what comes out of people’s pockets, I think the community will support the schools because they realize the need for our children,” Scruci said.

The larger $47 million project would have cost 8.98 mills over 27 years.

Scruci declined to list any possible millage figures for the new proposal until the district is comfortable it is supplying reasonably accurate information.

The fate of a $1 million 500-seat auditorium and a $3 million sports stadium included in the original project are still being discussed, Scruci said. If the stadium is included, he said he will recommend trimming the artificial field from the stadium, reducing the cost to $2.5 million.

If a bond issue fails again or an issue is not placed before voters, Scruci said the school board will have to consider asking voters for another permanent improvement levy to keep the current buildings in reasonably good repair.

The district allowed a 3.94 mill permanent improvement levy to expire at the end of 2008 in hopes that voters would decide it was more economical to build a new school.

Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or cleise@chroniclet.com.