The Tipp City Exempted Village Schools Board of Education agreed Tuesday to go forward with a bond issue for new classrooms on May 7 after questioning by a state agency of discrepancies in a master facilities plan and a proposal shared with the public.
“Let the voters decide,” said board member Joellen Heatherly.
The board talked about options including pulling the issue from the ballot before adjourning without taking any vote. Some members of the community had called for the board to pull the bond issue from the ballot and clear up any questions.
An April 26 letter from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission said the state portion of funding for the project could be reduced because the plans for renovations and an addition at L.T. Ball school to provide classrooms were listed as for students through grade six on the district facilities master plan and an agreement for district participation in the Expedited Local Partnership Program. However, the OFCC executive director said, the district was telling the public the bond issue would pay for classrooms for students through grade five.
The board Tuesday met in an hour-long executive session with administrators and an attorney to discuss pending or imminent litigation.
In the public session, the board discussed the surprise of receiving the letter after ongoing discussions with OFCC and was told the amount lost could be around $2 million of an estimated $10.1 million in state funding. If that loss occurred, the bond issue amount would not increase, said District Treasurer Dave Stevens.
Board member Sam Spano said as recently as late March an OFCC staff member “said our plan was sound, something the Ohio facilities commission would support. And, then this letter showed up a month later. We have been very transparent with our community and the OFCC.”
Public comments were not taken because of the special session and to allow time to take care of business, said board President Andrew Venters. He said public comments and emails since the letter’s release would be considered.
“Your voices are going to be heard in all of this … I assure you,” Venters said.
The OFCC letter was sent to Superintendent Gretta Kumpf by David Williamson, OFCC executive director.
“Commission staff now understands that the district intends to use L.T. Ball Intermediate only as a PK-5 facility and apparently that has been the district’s intent even though the Tipp City Board of Education passed a resolution and entered the ELPP Project Agreement stating it was PK-6,” Williamson wrote.
District leaders are asking voters to approve a bond issue to raise $35.75 million over 27 years. The project would replace the aging Broadway and Nevin Coppock elementary buildings.
Board member Corine Doll said the new classrooms are a must.
“We are not perfect … Our intention is good, our goal is good. Let’s press on to that goal. Let’s not let fear divide us and stop us from providing for our community the things that we know our students need,” she said.
The district had worked with the OFCC on participating in the state ELPP construction funding program for 35 percent funding for project elements meeting the state program requirements.
Williamson said the OFCC staff recommended the district amend its facilities master plan and project agreement “to better reflect the intended use. If that does not occur, then Tipp City needs to understand that it will not receive the potential credit that it currently expects upon entering the classroom facilities assistance program.”
The board did not discuss that recommendation Tuesday.
A series of emails between district officials and those at OFCC were obtained from the district through a public records request. In a March 28 email, Gary Pfister, district services director, asks an OFCC staff member about the accuracy of a statement Pfister said district officials wanted to share with the community.
That statement read as follows:
“Our proposed building project at LT Ball will meet the K-12 Facility Master Plan that has been approved by OFCC. The proposed building will have enough classrooms to house our K-6 population, as determined by OSDM standards. During the first phase of the master plan, the district has decided to house our sixth-grade population in the Middle School as we have just completed renovations that have extended the life of this building. At the end of the useful life of the Middle School, the sixth-grade students will then be accommodated in the K-6 building, pending a future enrollment study and review of the OFCC approved K-12 Facility Master Plan.”
Pfister asked, “Is this an accurate statement.” The answer from OFCC staff member was “Statement is correct.”
Pfister also asked the OFCC staff member to confirm the schools have control over what student population is housed in the building. “How district is going to use building – this is a local decision,” the OFCC staff member wrote.
He also asked if the district would “still be eligible for our funding if we only house k-5 students before the master plan is completed?” The answer was “When we get into funded project we will review MFP (including enrollment) and make sure LT Ball has no excess spaces. It means all educational spaces should be filled up.”