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$88M in Projects on the Line

March 15, 2009
By JOSELYN KING Political Writer

WOODSFIELD - Primary election day - May 5 - will be a "special" day in Monroe County, as voters in the Switzerland of Ohio Local School District will decide the fate of $88 million in proposed school construction projects.

A school bond totaling 8.19 mills will appear on a special election ballot. If passed, the levy would generate a total of $35 million over a 28-year period.

Work would involve the building of six new school facilities, as well as the renovation of River High School, according to Superintendent Larry Elliott.

Further details are to be discussed with architects this week and revealed when the Switzerland of Ohio Board of Education meets at 6 p.m. Thursday at the board office.

Elliott expects artists' renderings to be presented at the meeting, as well as announcements made as to where the new buildings will be constructed.

There are no elections or other issues filed for the Monroe County primary election ballot.

As such, the county will hold a "special" election on May 5 solely for the purpose of the school bond issue, and the school district will have to assume the cost of the special election.

Tracy Curtis, deputy director of elections in Monroe County, anticipates the price for the special election to be about $50,000, including the cost of ballot printing and pollworker pay.

The Switzerland of Ohio School District also crosses over into parts of Belmont and Noble counties, which will hold regular primary elections on May 5.

Elliott said putting the school bond before voters on May 5 is worth the cost for the district.

That's because if the bond issue passes at that time, the Ohio School Facilities Commission will pick up a greater percentage of the the total construction costs.

Elliott explained the Switzerland of Ohio School District would pay 37 percent of the $88 million construction project if it is approved on May 5. This total $32.56 million.

After this time, the school district's share would increase to 52 percent or $45.76 million.

"The time is now," Elliott said. "It's a one-time opportunity to take advantage of the reduction. The Ohio School Facilities Commission will pick up the balance."

As the unemployment rate in Monroe County currently exceeds 13 percent, he acknowledged that this could be the last chance the school district has to construct new facilities.

"No, if this doesn't pass this time, I see no way for us to be able to fund this locally," Elliott said.

He described the Switzerland of Ohio's school construction project as being similar to one completed by Bellaire Local Schools in 2001. The district constructed consolidated elementary and middle school facilities while extensively renovating the existing Bellaire High School building.

Former Bellaire School Superintendent George Richardson who spearheaded the construction project there is presently an administrative assistant in the Switzerland of Ohio Local School District.

"At River High School, we will be able to take advantage of saving the existing gymnasium complex," Elliott said. "It is in outstanding condition and is large in size."

He added that Switzerland of Ohio students "definitely need new facilities to be competitive."

Our facilities are very old, and are slowly deteriorating," Elliott said. "It's also a chance to begin building infrastructure in our communities, and to add to the property value of local homes.

"We would be replacing existing buildings with new buildings."

It's anticipated that 1,000 construction jobs would be created through the school building project, as well as another 500 ancillary support jobs, according to Elliott.

He noted that the school district is in the process of completing a project labor agreement that has been approved by local trade unions

"The jobs that will be recreated will be union jobs," he said. "We have an obligation to hire locally."

Ohio residents needing to register to vote in the May 5 elections must do so by April 6.

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