Big Walnut Local School District’s 8.3-mil, $133.9-million Bond Issue that will be on the November 8 General Election ballot. There has been a lot of banter on social media, both for and against the bond issue. Those for the bond issue are well-organized with a small army working diligently to convince voters to say Yes at the polls.
Big Walnut’s 2015 enrollment study showed 62-percent to-79 percent student population growth by 2025, and a facilities committee explored the financial impact of three options – do nothing and use modular classrooms to absorb growth; add on to existing facilities as student populations grow; or build a new elementary building and a new high school.
The committee’s final recommendation for meeting student population growth was to build a new 1,800-student high school on a new site, move middle school students to the high school, move intermediate school students to the middle school, and turn the intermediate school into an elementary school and consolidate in-town preschool at that facility. The recommendation also includes the construction of one new elementary building, additions to the existing middle school, and necessary renovations to the district’s other school buildings.
If passed, the bond would add new taxes of $290.50 per year for each $100,000 of property market value, retroactive to Jan. 2016. The ballot language said the bond would be repaid annually over a maximum 37-year period.
Some of those opposed to the bond issue prefer to remain quiet and speak at the ballot box.
One opponent has stated the district is growing annually at a 3.9-percent rate instead of the district’s 6.2-percent rate, and has building capacity through school year 2023-24. Thus, the bond issue can go on the ballot at a later date, and save district homeowners up to $6 million.
For those who want to know more about the opposition, go on Facebook and search for BW Bond Issue Facts.
Big Walnut Local School District district superintendent Angie Pollock has said the bond issue campaign had been intense, especially considering the opposition’s social media presence.
“Some information out there has not been substantiated,” Pollock said. “One resident took a quote from minutes of the school district’s Facilities Committee meeting. From those minutes that one individual put out in the community that there was $44.8 million option that we didn’t talk about, that we were hiding from the community. I can assure you if we had a $44.8 million option available to us that would be on the table.”
Pollock said the new buildings option met the district’s safety, security, and academic needs. She said the district’s goal for Kindergarten through Grade 3 is 25 students in each classroom, 27 students per classroom in grades 4 through 8, and 29 students in grades 9 through 12.
“Based on what the state says capacity is 3,864 students,” Pollock said. “Based on the state formula we have room for 200 more students. We believe we can accommodate up to 4,027 students based on room usage in the buildings.”
Pollock said to build a high school with a capacity of 1,850 students is a four-year process.
District Treasurer Terri Eyerman said that “waiting until a later election would not eliminate the debt. Delaying the debt, if anything, would cost more because interest rates and construction costs are going up.”
“We can’t control growth, we can’t charge an impact fee, we can’t fund schools with an income tax, and people want to live here,” Pollock said. “We’re making the best possible decisions that we can. Our job is to make sure our kids get the best education they can. I encourage you not to believe everything you read online.”
The district’s information on the bond issue is on its website at http://www.bwls.net/PlanningforGrowthEconomicDevelopment.aspx
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.