State commission optimistic about funding
A school district would have a year to provide its share of the dollars.
By ERIC GROSSO
BROOKFIELD -- Brookfield schools have a "very good chance" of receiving funding this summer for large renovations to current buildings or construction of a new building, said members of the Ohio School Facilities Commission.
Commission members spoke at a special board of education meeting Wednesday.
Brookfield school district officials have been meeting with members of the OSFC since September to assess the current state of district buildings.
The commission distributes dollars based on the lowest wealth districts, according to the Ohio Department of Education's Equity Distribution List.
Project administrator Steve Roka and planning administrator Jeff Tuckerman spoke to a crowd of about 50 township residents Wednesday, laying out the process for receiving funding and what the district could do with the dollars.
The OSFC Classroom Assistance Program provides money but the district must match or provide a portion of the funds. Roka said early numbers show that Brookfield would have to pay approximately 35 percent of the cost of potential projects.
Working on master plan
Representatives are forming a master plan for the district, including assessing the current buildings, finalizing enrollment projections and generating costs for either renovating current buildings or building new ones. The plan should be completed and an offer made to the district in June or July of this year, according to Roka.
"If I were a betting man, I'd say Brookfield has a pretty good shot at receiving funding," said Roka. "We're meeting with the district now to essentially make sure they are prepared to receive an offer for funding."
After an initial offer is made, districts have one year to provide their share of the funds.
Many residents at the meeting were concerned that additional levies would be needed to generate the district's share of funding and other additional expenses. The district was placed under fiscal watch last year and had to make cuts to pass a working budget.
Athletic fields, a fixed-seat auditorium and other spaces not funded by commission would need to be built with the district's money. The OSFC doesn't fund fixed-seat auditoriums because of the low use rate. It does fund "double use" spaces that are utilized more often, such as spaces that are cafeterias and auditoriums.
Funding the projects
Tuckerman said past projects for other districts haven't always been funded by new tax levies. He noted that past projects have been paid for with bond issues, personal contributions and temporary income taxes.
The district would also need to think about higher operating costs for a new building.
"Generally, these types of new buildings are used by the community a lot more than the old schools were. Lights are left on longer, air conditioning and heat are used more often," said Tuckerman.
Tuckerman also responded to concerns of residents that the school board had not been updating the public on the project.
"Right now, we're not very deep in the project, so a lot of the questions you might be asking them, the answers probably aren't there yet," said Tuckerman.
Brookfield officials did not comment if the district's schools would be consolidated in one kindergarten-through-12th-grade facility, but both Tuckerman and Roka noted the OSFC pushes toward consolidating buildings.
Since 1997, the OSFC has provided more than 5 billion in funding and has another 4 billion appropriated for the future.
School officials will meet with OSFC officials in coming months to continue formulating a plan for the district.