VINCENT - Swayed in part by a community survey, the Warren Local Board of Education unanimously voted Monday to ask voters to support a $53.6 million plan to build three elementary schools and a middle school.
Warren Superintendent Tom Gibbs said he prepared the draft agenda for the meeting last week with language for a $42.4 million plan to build a high school and middle school, based on input from a June 6 public meeting and board member comments at June's meeting.
But a survey conducted by opponents and supporters of a repeatedly rejected plan to build five schools in the district indicated strong support in the community for the elementary-middle school plan.
Vincent resident Ray Smith, a supporter of the prior bond issue, illustrated the popularity of the option using crayons - 207 boxed and rubber banded together representing yes votes on the survey and 74 representing no's.
"You put that on the ballot, you bring back (high school) busing ... you pass it with flying colors," he said.
Smith praised Vincent residents Guy and Denise Tessum, vocal opponents of the previous bond issue, for spearheading the survey effort.
"I checked the results. It is legitimate," Smith said.
The survey was posted online about two weeks ago and included questions about a variety of school proposals, from putting the same $74.6 million plan back on the ballot to repairing existing facilities and building nothing new. Printed copies were placed at local businesses around the district.
The Tessums said respondents had to provide their name and address, which were not shared with the board, in order to ensure people didn't vote multiple times.
"It was not 'American Idol,'" Denise Tessum said.
The survey was not scientific or endorsed by the district or board, but it was apparently the deciding factor in shifting the board from an early favorite plan to build a high school and middle school.
Several board members reiterated their feelings that the original plan was still the best in the long run, since it addressed all the schools in the district at a lower cost than passing an issue for some of the schools now and the rest later.
"I'm still of the opinion that we ought to do all of it and put it back out there," board member Sidney Brackenridge said.
It was board member John Rauch who eventually made the motion to put what he called "the public option" on the ballot.
"We went to bat four times, and we ain't got on base yet," he said.
After more than an hour of discussion between board members, Gibbs and some of the 13 residents attending the meeting, the vote was unanimous.
According to estimates from Gibbs and district treasurer Melcie Wells, a 5.4-mill bond issue would raise the $20 million local share of the project, with the Ohio School Facilities Commission providing approximately $32.6 million. However, the state share could change once new assessments are performed in September.
The vote would include a 0.5-mill permanent improvement levy required by the state. The bond issue would generate an additional $1 million for "locally funded initiatives," additional options such as sloped roofs that might not be covered by the OSFC if it exceeded its budget for the project.
However, Gibbs noted that if bids come in low enough, the extra options could be included in the budget and that additional funding could be used for something else - such as repairs to the high school.
Passing a bond issue to address the district's facility problems would free up enough general fund money to allow the district to restore high school busing, Gibbs said. That would be his first recommendation if the bond issue passes.