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NEW BREMEN — While many people are focused to the primary election today, in New Bremen, school officials are looking at the November ballot to decide whether to go forward seeking funding for a building project, and, if they go forward, where to locate the building.
On Monday, the New Bremen Board of Education listened to citizens and answered concerns, hearing an audience that seemed overall in favor of putting a levy on the fall ballot, despite the failure to pass a levy last year.
Board Member Keith Bornhorst said the previous failure to pass a levy has cost New Bremen in two ways. First, estimates on what a building would cost have gone up 11.17 percent, from $16 million to $17.79 million.
Meanwhile the funding from Ohio School Facilities Commission has gone from 50 percent to 49 percent for the project.
Tony Zircher, from New Bremen schools’ facility committee, said he didn’t see the funding going back to a 50/50 match. Instead, he said, it looked as though waiting would continue to diminish the matching funds, if the OSFC funds even continue to be available.
While previously funded from tobacco revenue, the state is now continuing the OSFC funding but it isn’t guaranteed for any amount of time. If the funding is pulled, New Bremen residents may foot 100 percent of the building bill.
“They have renovated the worst of the worst schools in Ohio,” Bornhorst said. “They can end it when they want.”
On the other hand, some citizens asked whether the fixes that needed done were necessary, and what the bare minimum would be, should the public decide they’d rather stay in the building.
Zircher said the committee had evaluated the possibility, and decided fixing the heating, cooling, electric system, replacing the roof, pipes and replacing the boiler would be the starting point.
The roof, meant to last 15 years, was installed in 1981, Bornhorst said. A teacher in the audience reported using buckets under leaks in the rain.
The total cost to do those fixes would be in the millions, with no matching funds to renovate. The OSFC has already decided, he said, that they will not fund any renovation of the building, making it more costly to renovate than to build new.
“All of a sudden, it’s like a snowball,” Zircher said. “You’ve spent millions on a building that’s a temporary space.”
Kami Fox, board president, reported $13,000 in maintenance fees so far this year.
“The boilers to me — I hold my breath every year,” she said.
On the other hand, Diane Kramer, elementary principal, reported some audience members feeling that since the failure of the last levy, there’s been no change that would justify seeking support again.
“Not enough happened since then,” she said. “It was ‘no’ then, it’s ‘no’ now,” she reported at least one person at her table saying.
At the last levy, Bornhorst said, many people thought renovation costs had been overstated in comparison to building new.
“A lot of people said the estimated costs were high,” Bornhorst said.
Local contractors didn’t want to give a price estimate, however, because it would exclude them from being able to bid on the project at a later date. Since then, an independent company, Touchstone, priced the renovation costs estimated by OSFC, and found them in line. A $3 million contingency fund that may have raised eyebrows when it came to the cost was found to be in line with two other school renovation projects where the entire contingency fund was used, one in Coldwater, he said, and one at Fort Loramie.
The two location possibilities the board is considering are at the current high school or at the current building site.
While keeping the old gym had been suggested in the past, building while keeping the old gym turned out to be more expensive by almost $2 million because of the costs to get it up to code, and the fact no matching money would come from OSFC for the renovations.
When attendees were surveyed at the end of discussion, no one had indicated a preference for keeping the gym with the additional costs considered.
The high school site has the advantage of sharing band, shop and kitchen areas with the high school, making it the cheaper of the sites at a cost of $23 million, with a local cost of $15.7 million.
For a homeowner with a $100,000 house, the cost would be an additional $234.89 per year. The second site, at the current location, came in at a total cost of $25.3 million, with $18.2 million locally funded, costing the $100,000 homeowner $272.56 per year. Because the two options came fairly close in their impact on the taxpayer, Zircher suggested people consider more which option they believed would be right for the community.
He also said that in four years, the high school will be paid off, and people’s tax rates would go back to approximately what they are now.
One concern he addressed was the idea that too many vehicles would make for difficult driving during drop off and pick up times if the new building was built at the high school.
Different parking areas, he said, would accommodate buses, staff, student drivers and parents so circulation didn’t appear to be a problem, he said.
Another concern, he said, was that there would be problems with elementary and high school students mixing. He said the schools did not have a lot of common areas where younger students and older students would mix.
Another meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. today, and board members encouraged anyone who hadn’t been able to make previous meetings to attend, regardless of their last name’s first letter.