SHELBY - The Shelby Board of Education voted unanimously on Wednesday to start the process of asking Shelby voters to build a new Pre-K through 8th grade building, as well as constructing a new football stadium.
In a special meeting, the board approved a resolution declaring the necessity of submitting to Shelby voters the question of approving a school facilities improvement bond in the aggregate amount of $16,470,000. The new school facility would be constructed on the same campus as Shelby High School, and house students from preschool through eighth grade.
"You would get every student on the same campus, and there are a lot of advantages to that," said Superintendent Tim Tarvin. "We see it as one district, one campus."
A new Pre-K through 8 building would combine the student populations of Dowds Elementary, Auburn Elementary and Shelby Middle School. Current enrollment projections of the new building are just under 1,200 students; Shelby High School has just under 500 students.
According to Tarvin, at the beginning of the year the district was notified by the state of Ohio that the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) had $16,082,215 available to fund a new school facility in Shelby. This is 50 percent of the estimated $32,162,430 cost to build a new school; in order to receive the funds, the district must provide the other half of the project cost.
"They did an enrollment study, and the state does all this background work for you so they can come up with a cost," explained Assistant Superintendent Paul Walker. "Whatever the cost of the school is, the state picks up 50 percent of that cost."
The district notified the OFCC that they were indeed interested in accepting funding from the state for a new school facility. According to Tarvin, Dowds and Auburn Elementary schools were built roughly in the 1950s; the current Shelby Middle School building was built in 1965.
"Now we're looking at buildings that are getting old, and things are starting to fail on them," Tarvin said. "We've maintained them very well, but to renovate them we'd have to bring everything up to code, and it would cost us more to renovate than to build a new building.
"Another piece of this is the board is likely to move forward with a student resource officer," Tarvin added. "This makes that situation even more attractive from the perspective of a student resource officer could serve all of our kids more easily."
Tarvin emphasized that if the district moves forward with a new building, no jobs would be cut at the elementary or middle school level. Decisions on replacing staff members as they retired would be made as needed.
Another factor the district considered was taking advantage of the availability of state funding. The OFCC would not be eligible as a partner in funding if the district chose to renovate the existing buildings, and the entire cost of renovation would fall on the district and the taxpayers.
In addition to the new Pre-K through 8 school building, district officials are also investigating the opportunity to construct a new football stadium. Currently, architects estimate a new athletic facility to cost $2.8 million.
"An outside, independent agency has inspected our football stadium, and they told us in the spring that the life expectancy of this stadium is four to eight years," Tarvin said. "So we also may move our football facility out to that new campus as well."
Additionally, once the Shelby Board of Education became aware that OFCC funds were available, the district worked with a financial consultant, bond lawyer and architects to determine that the Shelby City Schools district could contribute an additional $6.6 million towards the total cost of the project. Combined with the OFCC funding, that totals nearly $22.7 million that Shelby taxpayers will not have to fund.
"If you think about it, you'd be getting an almost $39 million project for $16 million," Tarvin said.
The district cannot move forward with plans to build a new stadium or new school facility until they receive approval from the voters to fund half of the project. The next step in the process lies with the Richland County Auditor, who will calculate the tax rate necessary to finance the improvements on a 34-year loan at 4 percent interest rate, and ultimately determine the cost to Shelby homeowners.
If the board approves the auditor's millage rate, the district plans on placing the request to support the building project on the ballot this November. The final decision regarding timing, however, will not be made until the board has received the estimated tax rates from the county auditor.
"We don't want to procrastinate in putting this out to the voters knowing that money from the state is available," Walker added. "Plus the life expectancy of our stadium."
The last levy to build a new school building in Shelby was passed in August 2010 after three attempts. That levy funded the construction of the new Shelby High School, which was completed in 2013. Tarvin estimated the timeline to build a new Pre-K through 8 building would be three to four years from the time the proposed levy passes.
"I think you have to be realistic to know you're asking people to separate with their money," Tarvin said. "We're cognizant of that, and we've tried to be good stewards in every aspect of this."
The ultimate goal of a new school in Shelby is to allow students to be in buildings conducive to 21st-century learning, said Tarvin.
"We can't ignore the fact that those buildings are 65 to 70 years old," he said. "When you have aging buildings that are starting to fail, you can stick your head in the sand and know they're not going to get better, or you can try to come up with some creative method and plan to replace those buildings that will benefit the community."