On May 4, the Pickerington Local Schools will ask voters to finance construction of a new junior high school and the expansion of both high schools. The district is hoping to take advantage of “historically low” interest rates and what district treasurer Ryan Jenkins referred to as a “buy one get one” opportunity – the state of Ohio will grant the Pickerington schools up to $53 million if the bond issue passes.
This ballot issue is identical to the one that residents rejected last November by 15,434 votes to 13,602.
With an enrollment of nearly 10,600 students, crowding is already an issue at most of the schools. Accounting for the hundreds of new houses currently in development around Violet Township, the district projects enrollment to increase to 12,200 students by 2030, Jenkins said.
“We have quite a few buildings that are very near capacity, and a few others that exceed original design capacity,” Jenkins said. “While we have creatively addressed space issues in those buildings, we are at the limits of how we can address those issues without building additional facilities.”
In addition to a new junior high and expansion of both high schools, the bond issue would allow for the Ridgeview building to become a fourth middle school and for Pickerington Central’s new track facility to be upgraded to a full-blown stadium.
“Recent enrollment projections show that Pickerington Schools’ enrollment will soar with an additional 1,000 students in just a few short years,” Jenkins said. “With most of the district’s current buildings at or near capacity now, there is not enough room or existing funding to accommodate the growth headed Pickerington’s way.”
The total construction cost for all facilities is $91.5 million. The Fairfield County Auditor certified the millage at 2.90, which equates to a tax of $101.50 per year for every $100,000 of assessed property value. Assessed property value is 35 percent of an appraised property value.
So, if the auditor appraised the value of a property at $300,000 then the assessed value would be $115,000 and the property owner would pay additional taxes of $101.50 per year ($8.46 per month) if the bond issue passes.
If the community votes to approve the projects, the district could issue bonds for a maximum of 38 years.
“It is reasonable to expect that a $95 million bond issue will be for at least 28-35 years for most issuances (we often compare a bond issue of this size to a home mortgage, which for most people is about 30 years),” Jenkins said.
If the bond issue passes this spring, the district would benefit from the current state of the economy.
“Interest rates are at an all-time low right now–and the district believes that getting $95 million in bond proceeds to be used for construction for only 2.90 mills is a good value for our community,” Jenkins said.
Another cause for the district’s urgency is that last June the state of Ohio earmarked millions of dollars for Pickerington schools, but the state will not provide the funds unless district voters approve a bond issue.
“With the passage of the bond issue on May 4, 2021, the district would qualify for an additional $53 million in funding from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission to complete additional projects in the future to help us accommodate anticipated enrollment of nearly 12,200 students by 2030,” Jenkins said. “New housing starts across various new subdivisions continues in our community and is showing no signs of slowing down. We must prepare now for the added enrollment this will bring.”
If the bond issue passes, the new junior high will be built to the southeast of Central High School. Utilities have already been run to the property.
The Ridgeview building would house a middle school, an elementary, and the Gateway program for gifted students.
Currently, three middle schools funnel into two junior highs, which means that some elementary Tigers attend a Panther middle school then return to a Tiger junior high. With Ridgeview becoming a fourth middle school, students will no longer be shuffled back and forth across the district.
“With some minor redistricting, the attendance patterns for most neighborhoods will be known all the way from elementary to high school,” Jenkins said.
The district would also relocate its Welcome Center from Ridgeview to the Heritage building adjacent to the other district offices. Heritage would no longer include an elementary, but it would house all the district’s preschoolers.
The cafeteria at Central would be extended into the courtyard to accommodate an additional 200 seats. Twenty-four new classrooms would be added to the southeast side of the building for a total of 95.
At North High School, 18 classrooms would be added onto the northwest side of the building so that it will also have 95 classrooms.
Safety would be upgraded at both high schools. Vestibules added to the entrances of each building would lead all visitors to an office to sign-in before they could access the halls.
Groundwork has already begun on new athletic fields at both high school/junior high campuses.
“The initial phases of these projects are being paid for using existing capital dollars, and are not included in the bond issue,” Jenkins said.
Replacing Tiger Stadium has been a district concern for many years. Every few years, the field is damaged when Sycamore Creek floods.
Additionally, because Tiger Stadium only had a six-lane track instead of an eight-lane track, Pickerington Central was 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.
A new auxiliary athletic facility is nearing completion to the south of Pickerington Central on Opportunity Way. The field, including an eight-lane track, lights and some bleachers, will be ready as an auxiliary facility by next school year. If the bond issue passes, this field would continue to be developed into a full-sized stadium, and the current Tiger Stadium would become the auxiliary field.
Pickerington North would receive lights for its existing auxiliary stadium, and the school would receive a softball complex like the one at Pickerington Central so that both schools would have similar facilities.
“While the district is not forecasting the need for a new operating levy immediately on the heels of the bond issue, the current five-year forecast does suggest that an operating levy may be required by mid-2022,” Jenkins said. “Growing enrollment will also impact the district’s resources.”
If voters pass the bond issue in May 2021, collection of funds would not begin until January of 2022.
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