No state assistance for VB project

Chris Oaks spoke with Tim Myers, superintendent of Van Buren Schools.
Q: The board of education this week voted to place a bond issue before voters for the purpose of constructing an addition to the existing high school and middle school building that would include a new gymnasium and additional classroom space. Would those classrooms be for a specific purpose?
A: You mean like the fine arts wing that was added on in 2002? No, nothing like that.
It would be general classroom space that would replace the most aging part of the existing facility, which dates all the way back to 1918.
It’s not hard to understand that those academic spaces aren’t conducive to 21st-century learning, not to mention the crumbling masonry, collapsing pipes and crumbling wiring.
We actually view it as completing the project that was started with the addition in 2002, something we always knew would eventually need to be done and we feel the time is now.
Q: I’m sure the price tag of $29.3 million will certainly jump out at people, especially considering the Findlay City Schools built two new middle schools from the ground up for about $25 million each.
A: The thing you have to remember is that those schools were built with substantial assistance from the state, which is something we do not qualify for.
Q: Meaning the district doesn’t qualify right now, or this project would not qualify at all?
A: The state places each school district on a list, based on a formula which takes the total property valuation of the district divided by the number of students in the district. We’re on the high end of that list.
In fact, we did have the state come in to do an analysis of how much, if any, assistance we could receive. In the end, we would only be eligible for a split of 95/5, meaning the state would only pay 5 percent, and we would foot the bill for the rest.
Q: And we can assume even that 5 percent would come with strings attached?
A: Exactly. By accepting state money, the project would have to conform to their guidelines, which would eat up their 5 percent and much more. So, in the end, the cost to local taxpayers would be even greater than if we go it alone. Therefore, we declined the state’s assistance.
Q: If the measure is approved by voters, what kind of time frame would you be looking at for the project?
A: If the levy were passed in May, it would probably be the next year that we would finalize the planning and then it would take another three years to complete. That’s largely because of the logistical issues of adding new and demolishing old.
So, it would be done in phases, which is not unusual when schools look to do what we want to do.
Most likely it would go something like this: Build the new classrooms first, move the students in, tear down the sections to be removed, then construct the new gymnasium.
“Good Mornings!” with Chris Oaks airs from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. weekdays on WFIN, 1330 kHz. He can be reached by email at chrisoaks@wfin.com, or at 419-422-4545.

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