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School Construction Project in Holding Pattern

Lakewood City Schools looking to get the green light for $75 million renovation project this fall.

We sat down with Lakewood City Schools treasurer Rick Berdine to discuss the progress of the third phase of the Long Range Master Facilities plan. To complete phase III, the district needs $75 million in funding and is currently waiting on two-thirds of that money to come from the state agency called the Ohio Schools Facility Commission.

In this final phase, and elementary schools would either be renovated or rebuilt and half of would be rebuilt. 

In phases I and II, which are complete and paid for, Harrison, Hayes, Harding, Garfield, Horace Mann, Emerson and the western half of Lakewood High School were either completely rebuilt or renovated.

Lakewood Patch: How is phase III of the district-wide building plan going? 

Rick Berdine: Phase III is actually in a holding pattern…we’re waiting for the state to release funds to the OSFC and for them to tell us, ‘Hey, it’s your turn. Here’s your approximately $47 million and let’s get started on planning for the third phase.’ And when we get that call, that will involve a reassessment of the remaining facilities to be constructed or renovated and it will be a reanalysis of our enrollment projections and they typically do a 10 year look back and a 10 year look forward. And then try to identify the appropriate building space of that 10 year look forward. So we have every reason that will include two more elementary schools (Roosevelt and Lincoln) and then obviously finishing half the high school. We’re excited to get there…the earliest likely date now would be fall of 2011 that (the OSFC) would call us and tell us were eligible to start the process, and that will get us to the point of starting the facilities assessment and the enrollment analysis. And we’ll complete those and then we would be eligible for their funding phase, and we would have a small local issue that we would have to pass for the remaining share of the local component to that. 

LP: Would that be a small levy then? 

RB: Yes, a small levy. 

LP: Is there any projection on the mill rate? 

RB: I don’t know at this point. We know that all along in the plans the difficult part to predict is what happens to construction costs between the date that amount was predicted and when we actually are able to commence construction? There had been a likelihood that we would get the call (for $47 million in funding from the OSFC) in the fall of 2010. Well, that didn’t happen. Now our earliest possible date is the fall of 2011. Clearly, we know that the state has budget woes that could impact this particular line item as well, and if it does it could become fall of 2012 or who knows when. We know that they are at district ranking #410 on the list of 615 and we are #420. So we’re 10 away, but 10 away means millions of dollars, literally. 

LP: Since the OSFC will contribute $47 million of the $75 million that’s required to complete phase III, where will the remaining funding come from? 

RB: Yes, about $47 million would come from the state. And then we’d have to raise about $28 million and then there’s a requirement by the OSFC in order to get their money that (the district) would also pass a .5 mill permanent improvement levy for those funds to be set aside for the ongoing maintenance and care of the new facilities. There’s certain requirements (the OSFC) has in terms of building standards, in terms of a maintenance plan for the care of those buildings…To date, we’ve played by their rules because we want that $47 million. 

LP: Will that be two levies total then—one to help fund the project and one for the upkeep of the new facilities? 

RB: That’s correct. But there’s ways to combine that ballot language into one issue so it wouldn’t necessarily be two issues on the ballot, but there’s kind of two funding streams that will result from the process. However that gets decided by the Board (of Education) at the time and that’s what we will do. But we’ll figure that out as we get there, but we know (these levies) are a requirement. We’ve known that since 2002 or 2003 when we had first conversations with the OSFC, we’ve know that requirement would someday occur. 

LP: Was the original completion date for phase III in the 2013-14 school year? 

RB: That’s what we had hoped for in the original schedule, and that’s when I said we had reason to believe that the fall of 2010 would have caused our #420 to come up. That didn’t happen due to financial issues at the state level which, as we know, has impacted more than just the state. It’s a universal phenomenon at this point. So that’s not a criticism of the state’s inability to fund it at this point, it’s just the reality of the economic times that we’ve all encountered that are almost unprecedented in history. I wasn’t around for the (Great) depression, so I can’t speak for that but it sounds eerily similar, at least when you talk to the folks who have some knowledge of that time in history.   

LP: Would we say then the earliest possible completion year is 2014-15? 

RB: If we get the call in the fall of 2011…we’d have a fall 2012 ballot issue, start (construction) in the beginning of 2013, say we’re done somewhere in 2014, 2015. That’s safe. I think that’s the earliest date at this point in time. I don’t see it being any faster than that. Maybe by months, not by years.  

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