Oakwood schools seeking levy to fund Master Facilities Plan

The Oakwood Board of Education has approved the first step to place a tax issue on the May ballot.

The second of two required votes will be taken at its Jan. 14 meeting before the measure gets final approval.

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The ballot issue would be one request with two distinct parts: a 4.99-mill operating levy and a bond issue at approximately 2.7 mills.

If approved, the measures together would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $270 per year according to school officials. The levy would be $175 on its own, while the bond is $95.

“Each of these parts is critical and equally important,” Superintendent Kyle Ramey said.

The 4.99-mill operating levy is the district’s lowest request to the Oakwood community for operating dollars in more than 30 years, Ramey said.

Traci Hale, community relations director for the district, said “Just like our last request for additional funds in 2016, this levy would generate money to cover the district’s day-to-day expenses.”

She added, “We have been good stewards of taxpayer money and will continue to develop processes and procedures to be as effective and efficient as possible, stretching our resources as far as they will go.”

In November, the school board voted to accept a Master Facilities Plan Report that includes projects that could run through 2038. The four-phase plan includes preserving current buildings with infrastructure improvements, addressing performing arts rehearsal space issues and exploring the concept of an Early Learning Center for pre-kindergarten-through-first-grade students that could also serve as community space.

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Funding for the project will be a combination of local tax monies with some private donations, according to a report released by school officials. The district is also looking at the possibility of state funding.

The 2.7-mill bond that the district is seeking would generate $18 million that would be used to pay for Phase 1 of the Master Facilities Plan.

Some residents have voiced concerns regarding the extensive project citing Oakwood’s high tax rates, and some have questioned the need for big spending when Oakwood already is among the state’s best academic performers despite aging schools.

“This proactive, financially sensible long-range plan will preserve our current buildings, while addressing their critical needs,” Ramey said, explaining the fiscal approach officials are taking. “Phase 1, of the four-part plan, focuses on prioritized foundational infrastructure at the junior high and high school and targeted infrastructure improvements at Harman and Smith.”

Ramey said the planned updates and renovations will allow school buildings to better meet current American Disabilities Act standards, as well as, operate more efficiently with modern mechanical systems in place.

“With a long list of needed repairs, we know we cannot do it all but by prioritizing our needs we can ensure our facilities are safe, dry and secure,” he said.

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