By Jordan Cohen
NILES — The Ohio School Facilities Commission has awarded an additional $1.2 million for new building construction to the city school district after revising its projections of the number of students that will attend the two new elementary schools and the high school.
The decision is a victory for Superintendent Rocco Adduci, who had challenged the state’s figures for months. The commission determines the amount of its funding based on student population.
“This is a godsend for us,” Adduci said. “They originally figured that we would only have 2,450 students, and how they came up with that, I’ll never know.”
At Adduci’s urging, the commission conducted another enrollment projection and determined it had underestimated by 151 students. The new figure is 2,601.
The superintendent said the additional funds will enable the district to add more than 4,000 square feet to the building housing kindergarten through second grade to be constructed at the Bonham Elementary site and an additional 9,000 square feet at the current Lincoln Elementary site, which will house grades three through five.
“We will be adding classrooms and hall space in both buildings, and wherever we were short, we won’t be short any longer,” Adduci said. “Without that additional money, we would have had to build smaller schools.”
In all, the state will be paying more than $57.2 million for construction of the three buildings. The local balance of $16 million has been funded by passage of a bond issue in 2008.
The award from the OSFC wasn’t the only good financial news for the district. The superintendent said the higher student figures enabled the commission to grant the schools an additional $100,000 for improvements to the former Our Lady of Mount Carmel School on North Rhodes Avenue. The money, referred to as “swing space funds,” is provided by the state to help the district house students during building construction.
Last October, the district received more than $575,000 in swing-space funds to lease the building, which Adduci said will later be purchased for $1.
In another item, Treasurer Linda Molinaro reported that Niles schools could lose $3.8 million over a two-year period if the state fails to resolve its budget impasse.
“We could be in real trouble,” said Marlene Rhodes, board president.
The state budget currently contains an $850 million deficit for education funding. The governor and Legislature, however, are working on a solution to cover the deficit that would include delaying the planned 4.2 percent reduction in the state income tax.