VINCENT- If a 3.45-mill bond issue and 5-mill permanent improvement levy are approved by voters in November, Warren Local school district residents won't have to wait until the 2013-14 school year to have high school busing restored.
"As soon as I can get enough qualified drivers," Superintendent Tom Gibbs said when a resident asked how soon busing would be brought back Tuesday during a special board of education meeting at Warren High School. "I'll have positions posted the very next day."
Busing was one of the items discussed at Tuesday's meeting, during which board members and administrators outlined the proposal that would raise the local share of a nearly $29.8 million project to build a high school, along with about $1.15 million a year for improvements to other district facilities.
Photo by Evan Bevins
Warren Local Board of Education member John Nichols, left, makes a point during a special meeting to discuss a proposed bond issue and permanent improvement levy to build a high school and repair existing facilities.
The board gave unanimous approval to place the issue on the general election ballot.
The bond issue would be paid back over 20 years, while the permanent improvement levy would be collected for 10. That means the cost to taxpayers would decrease by more than half after the 10th year if the levy expired and was not renewed.
It's the latest attempt to address the district's aging facilities after five bond issues to build multiple schools have been rejected by voters over the last two years.
The costs for school repairs Gibbs presented totaled $7.5 million, although the bond issue would raise $11.5 million over 10 years.
He said he did not budget out all of the money to account for inflation and additional needs that will arise.
The elimination of high school busing to free up money for facility repairs has been a divisive issue in the district since it was first approved last year.
"I think there will be an argument amongst the board over who wants to make the motion to bring back busing," board President Bob Allen said.
All five board members said they would vote to restore busing if the issue passed.
Fleming resident Paula Hendrickson, one of 17 members of the public in attendance, asked whether busing would be threatened again in the near future by fiscal concerns.
"If this passes right now and busing's cut again, you're never going to get another (levy)," she said.
Board member John Nichols noted there is one hurdle to clear in the near future to avoid significant cuts - the renewal of an emergency levy set to expire in 2015.
"If we can count on the (emergency) levy revenue, then it's a pretty secure future as far as I can see," he said.
Treasurer Melcie Wells said passage of the permanent improvement levy and renewal of the emergency levy in two years would have the district's five-year financial forecast "in the black for all five years, which has not happened in a long time."
The emergency levy generates $1.75 million a year that goes to utilities, buses, textbooks and other costs, not salaries and benefits, Gibbs said.
"If we lost $1.75 million in funding, busing's going to be the least of your concerns as a community," he said.
While the precise location of the new high school has not been determined, it would be on the current campus shared by the existing high school and Barlow-Vincent Elementary. Barlow-Vincent would be demolished and the current high school would become an elementary school.
Gibbs outlined the work that needs to be done at schools, with the permanent improvement levy funds. That includes roof repairs of $500,000 at Warren Elementary, $350,000 at Little Hocking and $460,000 for three roofs at the high school, as well as boiler replacements, electrical upgrades, plumbing replacements and more.