Tipp bond issue to move ahead

By Cecilia Fox - For the Miami Valley Today

TIPP CITY — Tipp City Schools will go forward with a school construction bond issue on the May ballot after a letter from state officials called into question the amount of co-funding the district will receive.

The Tipp City Board of Education called a special meeting Tuesday to discuss a letter from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) received by the district last week that raised questions about the district’s master facilities plan.

The letter, from OFCC Executive Director David Williamson, said that inconsistencies between the master facilities plan and the plans shown to the community could cause the schools to lose some of its state co-funding for new classrooms.

The district’s website, informational materials and community meetings described the project as the renovation and expansion of L.T. Ball Intermediate School to house pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade students, while the master facilities plan included the sixth grade in the addition and would move seventh and eighth grade to the high school.

“Our intention is good, our goal is good. Let’s press on to that goal,” board member Corine Doll said. “We know that the (plan) that we’re offering right now is sound, it’s honest.”

Board member Sam Spano said that the district has worked with the OFCC for several years and believed that their current plan had the office’s approval, adding that there may have been “misinformation” from the OFCC.

“We need to support this plan going forward,” Spano said. “This is the right thing to do.”

Board member Joellen Heatherly said the board believed the district could complete a portion of the full master plan and still receive state co-funding, which she added has always been variable and dependent on a future evaluation of the district’s enrollment and needs.

The letter said that the budget for the project could change by as much as $6 million and available co-funding would also change if the district goes ahead with the pre-kindergarten through fifth grade plan.

Williamson’s letter noted that it is the district’s decision whether to construct a pre-kindergarten through fifth grade addition or one that includes the sixth grade, as agreed upon in the master facilities plan, but recommended that the district amend its master facilities plan to “better reflect (its) true intended use,” otherwise the district “will not receive the potential credit that it currently expects.”

Treasurer David Stevens noted that the actual difference in the co-funding amount could be about $2 million. The current budget for the project is about $35.75 million, of that total, there is a separate portion that is eligible for state co-funding, about $28.8 million. The 35 percent co-funding the district is set to receive is an estimated $10 million.

If the budget changes by $6 million, then the discrete portion becomes $22.8 million. If the district were to receive 35 percent of that amount, it would receive about $8 million from the state.

Stevens stressed that, either way, the bond issue will fund the entire project and there will be no changes for the taxpayers.

If the board pulled the bond issue from the May ballot and waited until August or November to proceed, Stevens said the district would be faced with higher construction costs, the addition of a $1 million to $2 million mandated storm shelter, and changing interest rates.

The 27-year, $35.75 million bond issue funding the project will appear on the May 7 ballot for the renovation of approximately 60 percent of L.T. Ball Intermediate School and the addition of about 94,000 square feet in new classrooms, an additional gymnasium and a stage.

“The district has been in regular contact with OFCC throughout the facilities planning process. This latest correspondence appears inconsistent with prior communications. The district’s superintendent, treasurer, and board of education continue to review documents,” Superintendent Gretta Kumpf said Monday in a statement reacting to the letter.

By Cecilia Fox

For the Miami Valley Today