Staff Writer

Liberty-Benton Superintendent Mark Kowalski highlighted the school district’s achievements and reminded residents of the upcoming property tax issue during a “state of the schools” presentation Monday.

The May 7 ballot will include a 35-year, 7.3-mill bond issue that would fund construction of a new pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade building and a new auditorium. The district would also make renovations to the high school.

The tax would generate Liberty-Benton’s $25,594,646 share of a $45,576,101 project, with the state covering the rest. Much of the project is split 57/43, with the state paying the larger share, but the school district must fully fund certain elements, including the auditorium.

Tax collection would begin in January 2020, after the district makes its last payment on the high school, which was paid for by a bond issue now collected at 1.8 mills. The increase in taxes would be 5.5 mills, or $192.96 per year for a property with an appraised value of $100,000.

There will be no “double payments,” Kowalski said, or paying for the high school and the new construction and renovation at the same time.

That’s among the reasons that now is the right time for construction, he said. Another is that the oldest parts of the elementary/middle school building date to 1921. That creates mechanical and structural issues.

Among the achievements the superintendent highlighted Monday was the average ACT score of last year’s juniors: 22.6, compared to a state average of 20.3.

Current juniors are taking the test today. All juniors in Ohio take the ACT or SAT, whether they plan to go to college or not.

Most of the class of 2018 — 86 percent — did choose to continue their education, Kowalski said. Two percent of graduates entered the military.

Liberty-Benton earned an overall B grade on the state report card released in the fall. 2018 was the first year an overall letter grade was given.

The district’s performance index, which reflects standardized test results of all students, rose to 82.1 percent for the 2017-2018 school year, up from 80 percent the year before. The district is in the top 20 percent statewide on that measure, Kowalski said.

Kowalski thanked voters for renewing two emergency levies last May. They generate a total of $1,424,600 for the operating budget.

The district has not had deficit spending since 2009, but could slightly overspend this year, Kowalski said. That’s due to unexpected repairs, including to a boiler, he said. The deficit spending is currently projected at around $82,000.

The district’s administration will go through a “realignment” next school year, Kowalski said, in which two principals will take new positions.

Middle school principal Bruce Otley will be the director of operations, overseeing maintenance, transportation, and health and safety. High school principal Brenda Frankart will become the director of federal programs and curriculum.

Assistant high school principal Ben Gerken will move up to principal.

Kowalski also noted achievements in athletics and arts, and his presentation was bookended by performances by Fermata the Blue, the high school a capella group.

Rubright: 419-427-8417

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