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Plans for buildings revised



Published: Wed, April 14, 2004 @ 12:00 a.m.



The district must come up with $4 million.

By JoANNE VIVIANO

VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- The board of education moved one step closer toward guaranteeing that district pupils will see 12 new buildings instead of just the initial six authorized by a 2000 school construction project plan.

Board members unanimously passed Tuesday a resolution that amends the 4-year-old master plan and allows the district to build 12 schools and renovate or add on to three others.

The plan had been finalized Monday when district officials reached an agreement with the Ohio School Facilities Commission, which is paying 80 percent of the $198 million cost approved by the state. The district must fund the rest.

Tony DeNiro, executive director of school business affairs, said the change comes after reassessments of the district schools and enrollment numbers. The plan has been in the works for about a year and a major sticking point was the amount of special-education space, he said.

Although the OSFC generally allows special-education space based on an 11 percent special-needs population, Youngstown has a special-needs population of about 21 percent, DeNiro said. Accommodations were made by shaving space from other classrooms or areas in individual schools.

Building plans

The amended project means the district will have one renovated and seven new elementary schools; four new middle schools; one new and one expanded high school; and a renovated career center. Five elementary school buildings will be demolished.

The new master plan increases costs by about $35 million over the $163 million project cost set in 2000. The project cost estimate had been increased to about $182 million as reassessments were being completed; however, a new master plan had not been adopted with that updated figure, DeNiro said.

The plan now faces final approval by the OSFC on April 22. The approval will mean that the district can move on with architectural planning for the additional new buildings, DeNiro said.

"If the district is going to move forward with these six buildings, we've got to do it now," he said. "We feel this is the best the district can do with the OSFC at this point."

Besides the $198 million state-approved costs, the district has added roughly $6 million in projects for which the district must pay the total cost. Those projects include auditoriums at the two high schools.

The district is funding the 20 percent share on the original $163 million project primarily through a 3.9-mill bond issue that allows the district to issue $33.2 million debt. Other project funds have come from interest earnings on the bond money and other district coffers.

$4 million needed

The changes, however, mean that the district must come up with an additional $4 million, said Treasurer Carolyn Funk. She has urged board members to seek voter approval of a new, one-half mill bond issue to make up that difference.

"We've put forth a significant effort without going to the taxpayers," she said. "Now we have to take this step."

Because of low interest rates, Funk said, the district does not need to continue collecting the full 3.9 mills to pay off the initial $33.2 million. As such, the amount of millage collected through that issue will likely lower to 3.15 or 3.2 mills.

The district, however, cannot issue debt above the $33.2 million without voter approval. That approval would allow the district to issue the additional $4 million needed, but also requires a one-half mill increase in the collectable tax rate. Overall, Funk explained, the collected mill rate would remain at the 3.9 mills originally approved by voters.

viviano@vindy.com




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