July 29, 2014

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Keystone voters approve bond for new middle school

LaGRANGE — A cheer went up at Score Boards sports bar Tuesday night with the news that a 2.19-mill bond issue to build a new middle school passed by a comfortable margin.

Any sports victory wouldn’t be nearly so sweet, according to bond issue supporters who had gathered to wait for returns.

“I’m thrilled for the community and thrilled for the kids,” said Superintendent Jay Arbaugh.
Issue 9 passed by 2,184 to 1,872 or 53.85 percent to 46.15 percent, according to unofficial election returns.

The new $11.5 million school serving sixth through eighth grades will be built north of Keystone High School on Opportunity Way and will open in fall 2012.

The bond issue won’t cost residents of the district any more, because that’s the exact amount that will drop off the tax rolls at the end of the year.

The master plan calls for the construction of an elementary school north of the football field on Opportunity Way as well, he said.

Because voters have funded the high school and middle school projects, the elementary school will be built at little or no cost to residents in the Keystone district because the school district will have met its local funding obligation with the Ohio School Facilities Commission, Arbaugh said. The elementary building could move ahead as early as 2014 or 2015, Arbaugh said.

Arbaugh, who took over as superintendent in the summer, credited the school board and Dr. Gary Friedt, the former superintendent, with the planning that led to passage of the bond issue.

“I had nothing to do with it,” Arbaugh said.

Friedt, who attended the victory party, said the district has been working on the plan since 2001, and waited to present the middle school portion to voters at the right time when it would not result in a tax increase.

The initial school-building effort was a bit harder, Friedt said, noting it took three tries before voters passed a $17.5 million bond issue in 2003 to fund the construction of the high school.

School Board President Renee Mezura said passage of Tuesday’s bond issue “seemed like a no-brainer,” but levy supporters took nothing for granted.

Arbaugh said bond issue co-chairs Kim Jorgensen and Brad Copley ran a great campaign with an enthusiastic get-out-the-vote effort including a rally Monday night on the traffic circle in the center of LaGrange.

Jorgensen said another goal was “to make it personal — a lot of door to door, phone calls and e-mails.”

Mezura said all the planning for the bond issue paid off, but the Keystone Schools might have to gear up in several years for an operating levy, most likely in fall 2012.

“Hopefully it will be small,” she said.

The Keystone Schools likely will be able to obtain zero-interest construction bonds for the middle school building, Arbaugh said.

While the bond issue is for 37 years, financial planners indicate it could be paid off in about 30 years, Arbaugh said.

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