Volunteer team releases initial findings on master plan costs and timing
Posted 03/07/2017 06:42PM

A team of community volunteers that has been working together since January to review the finances and facilities master plan for Upper Arlington City Schools has released initial findings that support an 8.92-mill combined operating levy and bond issue for the November 7, 2017, ballot.

Continuing the collaborative nature of the two-year facilities master planning process, the school district will share all of the Financial Advisory Board’s findings with the community for feedback through a series of meetings and surveys in April before any decisions are made.

In the latest step in the master planning process, the 10 community volunteers on the FAB produced an initial draft findings report that was shared with the Upper Arlington Board of Education at the meeting on Tuesday, March 7. These volunteers all have significant experience in business management and the financing and management of facilities improvement projects.

In its initial findings report, the FAB recommends that the Upper Arlington Board of Education pursue a 3.75-mill operating levy combined with an additional 5.17-mill bond issue in November 2017. The FAB noted in its report that this would be the first operating levy request in four years and that the district has exceeded the $4.5 million in cost-saving commitments made to the community at the time of the last levy request in 2013.

“It is also worth noting,” the FAB wrote in its report, “that this would be the smallest operating levy request by the district in more than 35 years.”

The bond issue would cover the first phase of the master plan, as proposed by the FAB, which would involve rebuilding the high school to address the immediate physical needs and renovating or rebuilding all five elementary schools to address immediate needs because of enrollment growth.

Upper Arlington is among the top 10 fastest-growing districts in the state, and enrollment is projected to grow by more than 10 percent through 2025-2026, according to an annual third-party professional report.

“The team feels that the community would not and should not support the idea of our elementary school students and staff having to learn and teach in trailers for several years,” the FAB wrote in the report.

The total cost for the first phase would be $230 million, incorporating reductions in the scope of the master plan and a recommended $5 million commitment in private fundraising by the district.

The FAB reached several other initial findings, including but not limited to:

The proposed 8.92-mill combined operating levy and bond issue for the first phase of the master plan would cost the owner of a $400,000 home an additional $1,249 in property tax each year.  Compared with 2017 tax numbers, that would be approximately a 14 percent increase in overall property taxes and 21 percent increase in school-related property taxes.

Community members will now have several opportunities to share their thoughts on these initial findings, including two community-wide meetings on April 4 and a community-wide online survey beginning approximately April 5.

“We want to hear from as many community members as possible to find out how they feel about the Financial Advisory Board’s initial findings,” Superintendent Paul Imhoff said. “At the end of April, the members of the FAB will come back together to review all of that feedback and make any necessary revisions.”

The FAB will then produce a briefing paper for Treasurer/CFO Andrew Geistfeld and Superintendent Paul Imhoff. On May 9, Geistfeld and Imhoff will make recommendations to the Board of Education, and the board is expected to take action in June on a combined operating levy and bond issue for the November ballot.

To read the FAB initial draft findings report in full, please visit www.uaschools.org/facilities.