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Published: Friday, 10/14/2005

Port Clinton voters asked to OK school plan

BY STEVE MURPHY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

PORT CLINTON - Most of the classroom buildings in the Port Clinton City School District are more than 50 years old, and three of them were built before 1925.

School officials hope to win approval next month of a $37 million bond issue that would allow them to replace some of those aging structures with 21st-century classroom buildings.

District officials developed the building project after more than a year of deliberations that included a survey of residents.

"This plan is truly a community plan," Superintendent Patrick Adkins said. "We feel that we really listened to the community, and this is a plan the community told us they would support."

If voters approve the 28-year, 4.2-mill levy Nov. 8, the district plans to replace four outdated elementary schools with two new buildings.

In addition, the newest of those four existing buildings, the 48-year-old Bataan Memorial Elementary School, would be renovated and expanded into a replacement for the 83-year-old Port Clinton Middle School.

Catawba Elementary School, built in 1913, and Portage Elementary School, built in 1921, would be replaced with a new building to be erected at one of two locations in Catawba Island Township. Bataan and Jefferson Elementary School, which dates to 1950, would be replaced by a new building to be built on the current Jefferson site.

District officials will host a forum Tuesday to discuss the bond issue and building plans with the public. The session is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the middle school.

The bond issue is the district's third and most ambitious attempt to persuade voters to fund new schools. In May, 2001, residents voted down a 28-year, 3.92-mill bond issue to build a middle school and an elementary school in Catawba Island Township for $26.4 million. Six months later, voters also rejected a 28-year, 2.31-mill bond issue to build only the middle school at a cost of $16.2 million.

It might seem counterintuitive, then, to go back to voters with a bigger package of construction projects and a larger bond issue. But Mr. Adkins said the district's new plan has several advantages over the earlier building proposals.

For one thing, he said, the district has estimated that going from seven schools to four would save more than $600,000 a year in operating costs, including reductions in staffing and busing expenses.

Because of those savings, the district has told voters that, if the bond issue passes, it would let a 2.3-mill operating levy expire in 2009 instead of trying to renew it.

Mr. Adkins said the district also has a 1.6-mill levy - which was used to build a performing arts center - due to expire in 2010.

In addition, he said the school board would try to reduce a 3.89-mill emergency operating levy when it comes up for renewal in 2008.

"Bottom line is the bond issue costs the owner of a $100,000 home $10.50 a month," Mr. Adkins said. "Counting the nonrenewal of the 2.3 mills and the cancellation of the 1.6 mills, we'll be giving back about $6 a month."

Mr. Adkins said the district considered renovating the middle school and some of the elementary schools, but learned through the Ohio School Facilities Commission that it made better financial sense to replace them.

The commission's rule-of-thumb calls for replacing a building if renovation would cost 66 percent or more of the replacement cost.

Percentages for the district's buildings ranged from 68 for Bataan Elementary to 105 for Catawba Elementary.

"We feel that the classroom size in [Bataan] is adequate," Mr. Adkins said. "The structure of that building is very solid. All in all, that's a very good facility."

Contact Steve Murphy at:

smurphy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6078.



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