Bellefontaine Examiner

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Building project headed back to voters

West Liberty-Salem’s board of education has revamped its proposal and took the first of two votes Tuesday to place a building levy question before voters in an August special election.

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Board members voted 4-1 in special session to place a resolution before voters Aug. 6 to partner with the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission to overhaul the district’s K-12 facility. The altered plan now includes a lower cost and will be paid for through both property and income taxes.

The property tax portion of the ballot question is 27 years at an estimated 3.62 mills. It would raise $7.55 million of the $11 million local share and would tax the average West Liberty property about $140 per year.

The proposed income tax is .25 percent over 23 years, bringing in a total of $3.45 million — or about $281,101 per year. The school district has said the average income is $45,499 a year and the tax would cost $114 more annually.

By working with its hired architect, school officials have also managed to trim about $3 million worth of local cost from their initial proposal last year. Specifically, redesigned building plans allow for modifications and expansion to the current cafeteria, without having to tear into the neighboring auxiliary gymnasium.

Part of the locally raised $11 million would also pay for upgraded security features including electronic locks and video cameras.

Another locally funded initiative includes installation of an additional access road to U.S. Route 68 — a proposal which has received approval from the Ohio Department of Transportation since the project was first rejected by voters.

Casting a dissenting vote, board vice president Chuck Buck said he didn’t believe the project as it has been proposed lines up with what members of the community have indicated they wanted.

“I think it’s a good project, but I think the community sent us a message with that last vote,” he said, “I don’t think what we voted for tonight is in line with what the community said it wanted.”

Superintendent Kraig Hissong and the rest of the board members believe modifying how the local share of the $33 million project is funded and reducing the overall local cost will convince enough voters to approve the project. Mr. Hissong has said that the current OSFC offer lapses at the end of August and the same upgrades could wind up costing more down the road if the district doesn’t act now.

The school board will approve formal ballot language at its next regular meeting April 16.

The district is also asking voters to approve a three-year, 1 percent income tax on May 7, unrelated to the building project. The income tax would raise $1,124,402 for current operating expenses. It has been approved several times in a row, most recently May 4, 2010.

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