Staff Writer

Liberty-Benton school board took the first step Thursday toward placing a 7.3-mill bond issue on the May 7 ballot.

The 35-year property tax includes 6.8 mills for construction and 0.5 mill for continuing maintenance of a new pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade building, plus renovations to the high school.

The board passed the first of two resolutions necessary to put the issue on the ballot, with the second resolution to come up at the Jan. 28 meeting.

The tax would generate Liberty-Benton’s $25,594,646 share of a $45,576,101 project, with the state covering the rest.

The state would pay 57 percent of certain costs, in accordance with the Ohio School Design Manual.

Liberty-Benton would end up paying more than 43 percent because the state doesn’t contribute toward certain types of construction, like auditoriums or transportation facilities.

Liberty-Benton’s plan, produced after community meetings and surveys, includes local funds for construction of an 800-seat auditorium. A Community Advisory Team also recommended the plan to the school board.

Renovating the high school and building a new school for the rest of the students was preferred by the majority of respondents on both an initial survey, with all construction and maintenance options, and a second survey asking about the top two options.

The second survey also asked respondents about which “locally-funded initiatives” — add-ons outside of the 57-43 funding split — the community would prefer.

An “auditorium/performing arts space” was among the most popular options.

The auditorium and the pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade building would be built on the high school campus. Last year, the district purchased 10 acres south of the high school along Hancock County 9.

The district could keep, demolish or sell the current elementary/middle school building. If transportation operations move to the high school campus, the district could sell the land.

Liberty-Benton is working with SHP Leading Design of Columbus on construction plans.

Collection of the tax would start in January 2020. At the same time, the bond issue for construction of the high school will expire.

That issue was passed at 7.6 mills and is now collected at 1.8 mills. So, the actual increase in property tax bills would be 5.5 mills, or $192.96 per year for a property with an appraised value of $100,000.

This is the district’s first attempt at new construction under Superintendent Mark Kowalski.

In November 2013, voters rejected a 6.5-mill tax package that would have generated $19.7 million toward building a new K-8 school, with the state paying for the rest of the $31.9 million project.

Two proposals also failed in August and November of 2008.

In other business Thursday, the board voted to keep A.J. Granger and Steve Benson as president and vice president.

Separately, Kowalski said the school district handled a power outage Thursday well. Classroom temperatures dropped to about 68 degrees, he said.

Rubright: 419-427-8417
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