By MARC KOVAC
COLUMBUS — The recently signed biennial budget brought some welcome news for 57 school districts in the state: accelerated funding for building projects.
Tobacco settlement funds, included among appropriations for the next two years, are expected to provide more than $4 billion for school construction projects, according to the Ohio School Facilities Commission, which oversees such building projects.
Earlier this year, 44 districts were offered funding for school construction or improvement projects. The passage of the biennial budget adds 57 more, including Champion Local in Trumbull County and South Range Local in Mahoning County.
Here’s the next step
Sue Meyer, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission, said selected districts must next decide whether to accept fast-track funding (meaning they could tap into funding this fall), seek a delay until the commission’s next funding round a year from now or decline the offer.
Champion Superintendent Pamela Hood said that the school district will wait until next year to discuss funding.
South Range accepted the fast-track funding and is in the process of working with architects. Treasurer Jim Phillips said the district is now waiting to sell bonds for construction. He hopes that will be done by September.
Those moving forward with building projects must provide a local match and work with the commission on master plans, outlining their facility needs in advance of construction.
The state has spent more than $5 billion on school facilities in the past decade.