TIPP CITY — After another meeting of the facilities planning committee, the Tipp City school district is considering building a new elementary school without state funding.
The district had previously agreed on a pre-kindergarten through eighth grade facility and was in line to receive 25 percent matching funds from the state, but a series of changes in requirements from the Ohio School Facilities Commission led the school board to defer the process.
According to the district’s architect Mike Ruetschle, if the schools decide to proceed without state funding, a smaller building project could be completed by July 2018 — a full two years earlier than a state co-funded project.
It could also be completed entirely on the district’s terms, with no input from the state at all, Ruetschle said.
These statements made a locally funded, phased plan — a pre-kindergarten through third grade building on the Broadway site with a fourth through eighth grade project to be determined at a later date — seem like the most attractive option to the facilities planning committee.
The district held a meeting last month for citizens to discuss a future building project. The facilities planning committee met again Thursday night in the Broadway Elementary School gym.
Most of the residents in attendance — parents, grandparents, homeowners in the Broadway neighborhood, and former teachers — seemed to agree that a locally funded, phased project could be the best course of action for the district.
They also agreed on the need to put a plan in place for grades 4-8 and that the construction of new instructional space is more important than new athletic facilities.
“Our buildings are not getting any younger,” Superintendent Gretta Kumpf said.
Before turning the discussion to the master plan, Kumpf answered questions submitted by residents about the current cost of facility upkeep.
The district’s 2 mill permanent improvement levy brings in about $689,000 annually to be used on school assets and property. Kumpf broke down where all of that levy’s funds go, including $225,000 spent on curriculum, $120,000 on technology, $37,000 for a copier lease, and a $76,000 payment for the track (which was paid off last month.) The district also spent $85,000 on a new bus, replacing an older vehicle in the district’s aging fleet, Kumpf said.
The district also spends about $200,000 of the permanent improvement levy funds directly on building maintenance annually, Kumpf explained. However, the actual cost of maintenance is much higher.
“The total amount actually exceeds $689,000 because of carry-over funds,” Kumpf said. “So there’s an additional $420,000 annually that’s added to that $200,000. So there is a lot of money that goes into taking care of our buildings.”
Other maintenance dollars come from other district funds, she explained.
Ruetschle presented the committee with two different options, and discussed the schedules and costs associated with each.
Option A is the “going it alone” option, Ruetshcle explained. This option would build a new pre-kindergarten through third grade building on the Broadway site.
It would also take into account the demolition of Broadway, Tipp Central and Nevin Coppock, as well as the “swing space” needed to house the students displaced by construction. That swing space would probably be 16 modular class rooms located somewhere on the Hyatt Street campus.
This plan would also provide for some renovation at the middle school and at L.T. Ball.
In total, this plan is projected to cost $27,863,126 or 3.9 mills.
If a levy funding the project passed in the March 2016 election, construction could begin as early as next summer. The district could move students into the new building in the fall of 2018.
State co-funded Option B has the same goals, at an estimated local share of $25,729,820, or 3.7 mills. The state would only share in the costs of new construction and demolition, Ruetschle said, and the district would bear the total cost of funding swing space and any improvements to other buildings.
Some committee members pointed out that there would also be hidden costs with Option B. Because the state would be involved in the planning and design, Option B would take an estimated two years longer to complete than Option A. According to Ruetschle, this could mean an extra $70,000 per month as construction costs go up.
If approved for state funding next summer, construction would likely not begin until the end of 2017 and would probably not be completed until 2020.
Other committee members noted that the district would have to keep spending money on building maintenance for another two years if the district decided on Option B.
Option A would also allow the district to keep usable furniture and technology, while state co-funded projects require districts to buy all new furnishings.
“We all agreed that the number one thing we wanted the Broadway block to be was a school. So I’ll speak for the neighborhood and say that would be our dream, for this to be a new school,” resident Heather Bailey said.
A group of neighbors including Bailey has been meeting for several years to discuss what would happen with the Broadway site if new schools were built.
Some residents spoke in favor of preserving the building, either as a school or as a community center.
“We have memories here. There’s other things that can be done with these buildings,” Don Watson said. He renovated an old school in Phillipsburg and reopened it as a community center.
District officials said that, given the poor condition of the Broadway building, preservation was very unlikely.
“If anyone loves this building it’s me,” Assistant Superintendent and former Broadway principal Galen Gingerich said. “I also recognize that there’s a time to let things like that go.”
He pointed out that education has become more competitive, with alternative options like online and charter schools vying for students. While the district’s quality of education is excellent, Gingerich said, but the building is a detraction.
“I love this building, it’s awesome. There are great memories here,” he said. “But we could start to make some new memories down the road too.”