BRUNSWICK — The Brunswick Board of Education is looking to place a bond issue on the November ballot to fund building a new middle school and renovating aging elementary schools.
During a presentation at Monday night’s board meeting, Superintendent Mike Mayell and Treasurer Mark Pepera addressed the middle schools — Visintainer, built in 1949, and Edwards, built in 1921 — that “aren’t conducive for how kids learn today.”
“The big problem is that our facilities aren’t keeping up with the changes we’re making (in the classroom),” Mayell said. “The No. 1 goal is centered on instruction and student achievement. With the new programs that have been implemented, now we need to seriously look at our facilities.”
Mayell said the district recently was approved to receive 37 percent state funding on any new buildings and renovations. That notification came after an evaluation by the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission in its “Exceptional Needs Program,” which identifies facilities most in need of replacement compared with other eligible applicants.
Mayell said the consensus is to consolidate the three middle schools — Edwards, Visintainer and Willetts — into one building on 30 acres of land owned by the district on Pearl Road behind Edwards and Visintainer.
Pepera said the proposed $55 million project would break down as follows:
- $46 million to build a new middle school.
- $5 million to build a multipurpose athletic facility and performing arts center.
- $4 million to replace roofs and windows at the elementary schools.
Pepera said the state’s share — 37 percent, or $17 million of the $46 million for the middle school project — only would count toward the middle school facility because of restrictions in state funding guidelines. However, it would bring the cost to rebuild the middle school down to about $29 million.
“I think it’s a tremendous selling point for the residents in Brunswick,” Pepera said. “We’re in a unique position now to address some long-term needs in the district that we weren’t able to address in the past.”
If the board approves placing a bond issue on the November ballot, Pepera estimated the district would need at least a 2-mill levy, which would cost a homeowner about $75 a year per $100,000 of property valuation, or $6.25 per month. He estimated the bond issue would last about 35 years.
“(The millage) may be slightly under
(2 mills) when we finalize details,” Pepera said. “Bond issues for most school buildings are 32 to 37 years, depending on the project and millage.”
Pepera said the estimates also assume the district will set aside 0.5 mill for maintenance and upkeep of the new middle school to fulfill state requirements.
“The board would need to authorize a resolution each year for me to set aside
(a) half-mill in funds for middle school improvements, maintenance and upkeep,” he said.
Pepera said this would be the first request for funding since 2006, when voters approved a seven-year, 4.5-mill levy and renewed it in 2010 for 4.6 mills.
Board member Rich Nowak commended the district for the opportunities offered to students, “especially with no new money since 2006.”
“That’s a selling point for any resident,” he said. “There aren’t many, if any, districts in the state that can say that.”
While a project timeline hasn’t been approved, Pepera estimated construction would take up to two years to complete if the the board puts the bond issue on the November ballot and it’s approved.
“(The board) will establish a timeline as we proceed, all based on the successful passage (of the bond issue) in November,” he said.
If the board approves putting a bond issue on the November ballot and it fails, Mayell said the district will have two more times — May and August 2018 ballots — to go back to the voters. He said state funding is available for 13 months after it’s approval, retroactive to April 1.
“If it (the bond issue) doesn’t pass, we’ll keep going … we have to do something,” Mayell said. “In four to five years, when quite frankly my career will be over, I don’t want to leave this problem for someone else to address. This is going to be huge.”
Pepera and Mayell said the district’s finances are “comfortable” for the next five years.
“We don’t anticipate needing additional funding, but that’s contingent on the state funding staying as-is,” Mayell said. “We’re confident this project will save us money in the future and in the five-year forecast.”
The district is working with Then Design Architecture LLC, of Willoughby, for prebond issues — assisting in compiling a master plan and bond issue campaign — at no cost to the district.
What would happen to the existing middle school facilities, Mayell said, is “under discussion” regarding Willetts, while Visintainer and Edwards would be torn down.
“There’s been a lot of talk about Willetts being a possible professional development center or Board of Education offices, or moving Towslee (Elementary students) to Willetts,” Mayell said, noting that conversations have not been approved or finalized. “That’s just conversations between myself and the administration.”
The board discussed putting a resolution on the May 15 meeting agenda that would authorize the district to move forward with the planning process.
“I’m looking forward to cutting the ribbon and providing more services to students,” Mayell said. “We’re moving in the right direction. The last piece to the puzzle is making the facilities in with what we’re doing instructionally. “This is a real important project for the district and it has to be done right.”
The board will meet at 6:30 p.m. May 15 at the board office.
Contact reporter Halee Heironimus at (330) 721-4012 or firstname.lastname@example.org.