Tipp City school board members agreed not to seek state funding this summer for a building project under discussion for years.
The board cited rising project costs and unanticipated requirements from the Ohio School Facilities Commission for its decision Wednesday.
The board and facilities planning committees have been reviewing classroom construction options for around five years, hoping to use 25 percent matching funds from OSFC to go along with 75 percent local dollars to replace aging buildings. The state money could only be used for classroom-related construction.
The board was on the brink of submitting a proposed plan for a new prekindergarten through grade 8 building on the grounds of a North Hyatt Street complex that now includes Nevin Coppock elementary, Tippecanoe Middle School and L.T. Ball Intermediate. It met in a special session to discuss more details Wednesday.
The pace of discussion about the proposed building project picked up when the district learned its turn at receiving state funding would come up this year, Gretta Kumpf, assistant superintendent said.
The board had planned to make a final decision on the proposal at a special meeting Friday, May 29. That meeting will be held with a more limited agenda.
After hearing an update Wednesday on a growing list of proposal changes by the state from Kumpf, who will become superintendent July 1, three of five board members said they wanted to step back from the proposal and again review options.
Kumpf said she was concerned that state money could not be used to build eighth-grade classrooms because there was enough space to house them at the high school. She said the state would also not pay for temporary space for students during the construction.
Board member Kate Johnsen said she was concerned about the growing project cost and the likelihood of getting voters to pass an estimated 7.6 mill bond issue in November. Voters earlier this month approved by 68 votes a 4.95 mill levy whose proceeds primarily will go to enhanced employee compensation.
Board President Tom Merritt wavered before saying he’d have to go along with deferring a project. “With the time line we are looking at now, to make a decision in a matter of a couple of days, I am not comfortable with that,” Merritt said. “I would like to have a more settled conviction than I have now.”
Board member Carla Frame agreed. “That is a lot of changes to make a decision within two days. I think other options need to be considered,” she said.
Board members Frank Maus and Scott Dixon said voters should have the opportunity to consider the proposal.
“The longer we wait is another year of kids in non-air conditioned classrooms, teachers in non-air conditioned classrooms,” Maus said.
“I think we have to go ahead and let the voters decide,” Dixon said, adding the district was accused recently of “kicking the can down the road” when it came to addressing facility needs.
The board is already considering a proposed $19 million building project that would include a $5 million stadium and other projects that would rely completely on local funding.
District resident Heather Bailey, who lives near Broadway Elementary which could be demolished in a construction project, said Thursday she applauded the board for its decision to step back.
“Their decision to defer is not ‘kicking the can down the road.’ It is the board saying to the state and the citizens that they won’t make a rash decision just to have the chance to receive free money from the state. They choose to be more planful in their approach.”
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