March 9, 2023
By Editor Rachel Scofield
Piece by piece, Pickerington Schools is building Pickerington High School Central a new stadium without using bond dollars. At their February 13 meeting, school board members approved the construction of a press box and home stands at a price not to exceed $1,032,868.00.
The district will finance the project with a lease agreement known as a Certificate of Participation (COP). A group of investors will fund the construction of the facility, then the district will pay back the loan plus interest.
The schools will cover the lease payments using funds collected through inside millage.
In any given area, there are 10 mills of property taxes which are automatically assessed and never need to appear on a ballot. These 10 mills are split among local governments. For example, inside millage collected from a property in downtown Pickerington, would be split between Fairfield County, Violet Township, the city of Pickerington and Pickerington Schools.
In 2022, the school board dedicated 0.5 of its 4.5 inside mills to the construction and maintenance of facilities.
Ryan Jenkins, who at that time served as district treasurer, explained the reassignment of funds.
“Currently, 100-percent of the 4.5 inside mills that we assess support the general fund. In transferring between $500,000 and $1,000,000 to permanent improvement funds, we are in essence transferring the equivalent of the same amount of money each year,” Jenkins said. “So, moving forward, the 0.5 inside mills will generate about $800,000 per year for the permanent improvement fund; while this also means that this $800,000 will not be receipted to the general fund, we also will not transfer $500,000 to $1,000,000 either, which makes the whole transaction nearly a ‘wash.’”
Replacing Tiger Stadium has been a district goal. Every few years, the field is damaged when Sycamore Creek floods.
Additionally, because the current Tiger Stadium only has a six-lane track instead of an eight-lane track, Pickerington Central has been unable to host track meets other than ‘dual’ meets with one other school. The school could not host invitationals with multiple teams, which is common in high school track.
The first phase of the new stadium was to add an eight-lane track, lights and some bleachers to the southside of Opportunity Way between Central and the future junior high building.
According to Pickerington Schools Chief Operating Officer Rob Weinheimer, construction on the home-side bleachers, press box, restrooms and concession stands will begin this Spring.
The district had always intended to develop the field into a full-sized stadium, then convert the current Tiger Stadium into an auxiliary field. Originally, funding was included in a bond issue to build a new junior high, but voters rejected that issue twice.
After the second attempt failed, the schools removed athletic facilities from the request. Voters approved the amended bond issue last November.
However, by entering into the COP program and repaying the lease with inside millage, Pickerington Schools is able to move forward with construction of the new stadium without asking voters for approval.
In January, Pickerington Schools announced that this summer the grass at both Panther Stadium and the new Tiger Stadium will be replaced with turf. Those projects will also be funded in this manner, Weinheimer said. See: Turf Will Replace Grass at Pick. Stadiums – Pickerington Online
Pickerington Schools will also use COP financing to remodel the former Bureau of Workers’ Compensation building on Yarmouth Drive into a preschool. See: PLSD Purchasing Former BWC Building – Pickerington Online