FAQs About Issue 43
How was the master plan created?
The facilities master planning process was born from the recommendation of community volunteers on the Productivity and Efficiency Work Group during the strategic planning process. This group identified the need to develop a long-term facilities master plan to address the district's aging school buildings in a strategic manner instead of a more costly fix-it-as-it-breaks approach (Strategic Briefing Paper, August 2014).
The master planning process has been deeply rooted in community involvement and feedback. Thousands of community members and staff members have volunteered on a building team, attended a community-wide meeting, taken a survey or attended an in-home coffee chat during the 2 1/2 year master planning process. In all, the district has had more than 8,000 points of contact with community members throughout this process.
How did we come up with the financing plan?
The Financial Advisory Board (FAB), a team of community volunteers with expertise in large-scale construction projects and financing, dug into the district’s operating budget and financial outlook during the final leg of the master planning process. This team explored the district’s need for an operating levy and several options for funding the master plan. Their final recommendation is a 3.75-mill operating levy combined with a $230,000,000 bond issue, an additional 5.17 mills of debt service, to fund the first phase of the master plan.
Note: These are preliminary cost estimates based on first-quarter 2019 dollars.
Why is there no "zero-cost" option?
The district's nine school buildings are, on average, more than 60 years old, and the building systems — HVAC, plumbing, electrical, mechanical — are simply nearing the end of useful life.
Although the buildings have been well maintained, according to a third-party physical assessment, it would cost an estimated $188 million to simply repair and maintain the school buildings over the next 15 years. That doesn't include the additional space needed to accommodate the projected enrollment growth.
How much is UA's enrollment expected to grow?
Upper Arlington Schools is one of the top 10 fastest-growing districts in the state, according to a report by The Columbus Dispatch in December 2016.
Enrollment is expected to continue to grow by more than 10 percent through 2025-2026, according to an annual third-party projection report. Some of the district's elementary schools are already out of classroom space for the 2017-2018 school year.
Why are the bond issue and the operating levy combined?
The bond issue and the operating levy really only work when they’re combined. If the bond issue were to pass but the levy were to fail, the district would not have the operating revenue to maintain current programming and would be forced to make significant cuts. If the levy were to pass but the bond issue were to fail, the district would have to use operating funding to address physical needs as they arise in our school buildings, starting almost immediately at the high school, and would be forced to make significant cuts in educational programming.
This fix-it-as-it-breaks approach would also be more expensive in the long term because, without bond funding upfront to cover all project costs, for example, a wall might have to be ripped out and replaced to fix plumbing and, only a year later, ripped out and replaced again to fix electrical.
What would the duration of the operating levy be? What would the duration of the bond issue be?
Operating levies are the primary way school districts in Ohio deal with inflation in the cost of operating expenses.
The 3.75-mill operating levy would be continuous. As property values increase, though, the millage collected for each voted levy is reduced to ensure the school’s funding from the levy remains flat, pursuant with House Bill 920. The Board of Education would anticipate not having to return to voters for a new, continuous operating levy to deal with inflation for three years.
The 5.17-mill bond issue would be collected over 38 years, assuming level payments at an estimated interest rate of 5 percent. This bond issue would cover the cost of the first phase of the master plan, which includes rebuilding the high school and rebuilding or renovating all five elementary schools.
Why two phases versus three phases?
The community volunteers on the Financial Advisory Board felt strongly that a two-phase implementation plan was the best option. The FAB believed that, despite a higher initial cost for residents, it is best to take advantage of current interest rates and current construction costs and avoid the need to finance trailers as a temporary remedy for enrollment growth at the elementary level.
What about the middle schools and Burbank Early Childhood School?
Based on the physical assessments and the enrollment projections, the Financial Advisory Board believed that the needs at Hastings and Jones middle schools, as well as Burbank Early Childhood School, could be revisited in approximately 10 years. In the interim, the district would continue to address any urgent building needs as they arise at the middle schools and Burbank Early Childhood School using permanent improvement funding.
Why do school districts keep asking for operating levies?
In Upper Arlington, approximately 96 percent of district revenues are fixed, with little or no room for growth. A major factor in this is House Bill 920, a state law passed in the 1970s.
HB 920 ensures that voted operating levies do not grow as property values increase. As property values increase, the millage collected for each voted operating levy is reduced to ensure the district’s funding from the operating levy remains flat. Generally speaking, the only way school districts see an increase in property tax revenue is when voters approve a new operating levy.
How will the Franklin County property revaluation impact the average Upper Arlington homeowner?
In August, all Franklin County homeowners received an appraisal estimate from the county auditor.
In Upper Arlington, Franklin County Auditor Clarence Mingo shares in a video for the district, the average property value will increase by 13.6%. That translates into an average increase of approximately 2.3% in property taxes for Upper Arlington homeowners, according to the county auditor.
Many residents are surprised to learn that the percentage increase in taxes is lower than the percentage increase in property values. That discrepancy is due to a state law known as House Bill 920, which limits the amount of taxes a school district can collect on voted levies. Essentially, as property values increase, the collection rates of levies are rolled back so that the total amount collected remains flat. Generally speaking, the only way school districts see an increase in property tax revenue is when voters approve a new levy.
Why are the estimated costs we’ve seen for new school buildings in other central Ohio districts lower than the estimated costs in Upper Arlington’s master plan?
There is no standard in central Ohio or the state of Ohio for reporting school construction project costs, so it is difficult to compare the costs of one school construction project to another.
For the Upper Arlington Schools master planning process, the Board of Education has committed to reporting total project costs, including all construction costs; soft costs (design fees, legal fees, furnishings, etc.); temporary classrooms (trailers) and swing spaces; inflation over the duration of the project; and project contingencies that are a standard in the industry. The school construction outlined in Upper Arlington’s master plan also accounts for buildings that would serve our community for 50 or more years. In its discussions, the Financial Advisory Board agreed that Upper Arlington should invest in long-lasting school buildings that would provide a lower total cost over the life of the building instead of a lowest first cost.
As a cost comparison, we’ll use the most recently completed new high school in central Ohio — Hilliard Bradley.
The cost of rebuilding Upper Arlington High School to face Zollinger Road (the Zollinger Road option) is approximately $142,000,000 in first-quarter 2019 dollars. (First-quarter 2019 dollars are used in all of Upper Arlington’s estimates to reflect when construction would begin on the first phase of the master plan.)
The total project cost for building Hilliard Bradley, adjusted for inflation to first-quarter 2019 dollars, is approximately $103,000,000. That figure, though, does not include the costs of: a natatorium or an auditorium of similar size to those in a rebuilt Upper Arlington High School; abatement and demolition of the current school building; an additional synthetic turf field for athletic practices; longer-lasting finishes that contribute to a lower total lifecycle cost for a building; and additional classroom space. With those additional costs factored in, a new Hilliard Bradley would cost approximately $144,000,000 in first-quarter 2019 dollars.
If Issue 43 passes, what happens next?
If Upper Arlington voters approve the ballot issue on November 7, the school district would immediately begin a design phase for the new high school and the five new or renovated elementary schools. The design phase would involve any and all community members and staff members who wish to participate.
After the design phase concludes, community members can expect construction to follow this tentative timeline:
Early 2019: Construction begins at the high school, Greensview, Wickliffe, Barrington and Tremont.
Fall of 2020: Greensview, Wickliffe, Barrington and Tremont would open to students. Windermere students would be housed for the 2020-2021 school year in the old Wickliffe building.
Fall of 2021: The new Windermere and high school would open to students.
Fall of 2022: The new high school site would be completed, with the old building demolished and the space developed into athletic field space.
For more information about the individual projects, please see the descriptions on the Conceptual Plans for the First Phase page.
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Updated October 16, 2017