In January, the Board of Education voted to place a combined operating levy and bond issue on the May 7, 2019 ballot. The operating portion of the levy will replace the 2014, 6.68-mill levy that expires at the end of the calendar year with a 6.1 mill operating levy – that will not increase taxes. Essentially, the operating levy replaces the previous levy, and it will generate the same amount in taxes as collected today.
In addition, a 37-year, 4.72 mill bond issue will allow our community to take advantage of more than $65 million in state matching funds to replace our deteriorating and overcrowded schools that are serving our youngest learners. It will allow our community to build and equip three, new pre-K through 6th-grade elementary schools and one new middle school for grades seven and eight. We can replace all of our elementary schools and middle schools for slightly less than 50 cents per day (based on a home with a market value of $100,000).
As far back as late 1990’s, the OFCC recommended replacing the District’s elementary and middle schools. Twenty years later, when the OFCC updated the District’s Facilities Master Plan, its report indicated the existing elementary and middle schools were well beyond being renovated, with the cost to renovate the buildings expected to exceed 2/3 the cost of new construction – the standard by which OFCC determines whether a building should be renovated or replaced.
The buildings are not only inadequate because of their deteriorating condition, nearly every school is housing more students than can reasonably be accommodated. Storage rooms, offices, conference rooms and stages have been converted into classrooms, and 22 modular classrooms are being used to accommodate enrollment that is increasing daily. Programs such as gifted education have had to be consolidated into two buildings, with some students having to travel up to two hours per day to get the services they need.
Student and staff safety is also a serious concern, with some of buildings originally constructed as “Open Concept” schools, which lack permanent interior walls and no doors. These areas are impossible to secure in the event of an emergency. In addition, the general age of the schools prevents them from being retrofitted with up-to-date safety and security systems.