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District delays projects over funding



Published: Tue, November 20, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The district is in line for about $100 million.

By AMANDA C. DAVIS

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- Plans for replacing the district's aging school buildings are on hold for now.

The board of education and some administrators met last week in Columbus with a construction managing company that said it could be two or three years before Warren sees any money from the Ohio School Facilities Commission.

Board member Lynn Gibson said two or three years might be a long shot. "We're not counting on it in this next year or the near future," she said.

OSFC spokesman Rick Savors said it's useless to predict when Warren will be funded because there's no way to tell at this point. He added that the district can take part in a local partnership program to expedite construction.

What this means is that Warren would use local money to get construction started and receive a credit toward the amount it would have to raise for a local share.

"I don't foresee us trying to pass a bond issue for the local share without state aid," board member Dr. Bob Angelo said.

Rankings: Warren will likely wait until an OSFC eligibility list comes out, ranking districts based on per-pupil tax valuations over three years, he added.

The district has been in line for more than $100 million for the last year. District voters would have to approve a bond issue to raise the local share.

Warren was one of 30 districts that was supposed to receive a piece of the state pie last year, but funding was eaten up by the first 13 on the list, Gibson said.

She added that the state usually allocates $450 million to $500 million for school improvements each year.

Cleveland schools alone need upward of $1 billion for renovations and new construction. Such bigger districts will eat up a bulk of the available money, pushing back projects for smaller and less needy districts, Gibson said.

Planning: Officials met last week with the Quandel Group in Columbus, a construction managing firm that consults with the OSFC and is working on the district's master plan for renovations and construction.

Gibson said the board will hold off hiring architects until the OSFC has more definitive answers about funding.

Jim Russo, the district's executive director of business operations, said it's not a good idea to quit planning altogether, because the district doesn't want to be ill-prepared should the state come knocking with a check.

The problem between now and then, he said, is that major repairs to things such as roofs or boilers will cost money -- possibly at buildings that could be torn down when funds are available.

The state mandates that schools be replaced if the cost of renovation exceeds by two-thirds the cost of new construction. Based on that, all of Warren's buildings, with the exception of Western Reserve Middle School, could be demolished and rebuilt.

Warren has 13 elementary schools, three middle schools and the high school.

Although the district's buildings are old and do have problems, Gibson said, the need for new construction is not dire.

"Our buildings, for as old as they are, have been very well-maintained."

davis@vindy.com




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