Willard Schools to consider community input

Aaron Krause • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:06 PM

WILLARD - The Willard community has spoken regarding what it feels Willard City Schools needs to do to improve its facilities.

Now, members of committees within the Willard City Schools district will sort through the comments, and narrow them down to two or three master plans.

Nearly 200 people attended a community meeting Monday at Willard High School, designed to educate local taxpayers about the district's partnership with the Ohio School Facilities Commission (O.S.F.C.)

"This is an unprecedented opportunity for us to partner with the state," school board member Rod Cok said.

Jack Kousma, a member of the district's building advisory committee, agreed.

"It really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to participate," he said.

The commission administers the state's comprehensive kindergarten through 12th grade public school construction program. Through the assistance program, Ohio schools can apply for a state guarantee for a loan to the governing board of the community school from a bank chartered by the U.S. or the state. The guarantee cannot exceed $1 million for owned improvements or $500,000 for lease-hold improvements and cannot exceed 15 years.

Through school districts' partnership with the O.S.F.C., deteriorating, overcrowded and inefficient school facilities are renovated or entirely rebuilt toward 21st century standards. The emphasis is on classrooms and labs, not spaces for extra-curricular activities.

The organization assesses, among other things, the age and condition of a building and its compliance with codes.

The O.S.F.C. pays for a portion of a building's project, based on a district's equity rank. This number is determined by dividing the district's total property valuation by the number of students attending the district.

In Willard's case, the state will fund 59 percent of the cost of one or more building projects. That will leave Willard City Schools to cover the remaining 41 percent. The district's share of the cost would likely come from a bond issue.

District officials are unsure about the cost of a project; that will depend on the master plans. What school officials do know is the district's overall valuation could be lower than the listed $203 million due to the state's phasing out of the tangible personal property tax. That could mean the district's share of a building project's cost would be lower.

Doughty has asked O.S.F.C. director Michael C. Shoemaker to consider redoing the equity list and subsequent rankings using actual district valuation representative of what the tax payers will be paying.

"We're fighting for you," Doughty told those present at the meeting. "We're fighting for our community."

Kousma said he was impressed that so many people came out on a snowy night to attend the meeting.

"I think we definitely have a caring community," he said.

The community will gather next at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 18, when school officials present one or more master plans, based on input from Monday's meeting. February's meeting will take place at the high school.

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