At the end of the May 1, 2017, Community Engagement Meeting #5 many attendees completed Exit Tickets whereby they were able to pose questions and offer feedback. Many others emailed the district office with questions and comments. Below you will find many of the frequently asked questions with responses provided.
Updated June 2017
The cost to repair and maintain our aging facilities is impacting the fiscal health of our district. We have $44 million dollars in deferred maintenance and our existing facilities are not readily accessible to individuals with disabilities. The average age of our school buildings is 90-years-old, and despite our best efforts to maintain our schools, we have reached a point where patching and repairing is not enough and our buildings are becoming more costly to maintain. We need a long term plan that can ensure adequate and efficient schools for our students and staff at a reasonable cost to taxpayers.
For the past two years our established Permanent Improvement Committee has met bi-monthly to discuss technology, maintenance, capital improvement priorities, and how to best allocate our Permanent Improvement (PI) resources. This committee includes Board of Education Members Grant Douglass and Debbie Brannan; Superintendent Andy Culp; and Treasurer Beth Collier.
Though there are many examples of capital improvements and maintenance projects that have occurred since the OFCC assessment in 2005, the following efforts are a recap of the last three years of district capital improvements and maintenance:
Stevenson Elementary improvements include: a cafeteria renovation that required removing old walls, repainting, installing new lighting and ceiling tiles, and building an entirely new serving line; installing all new hand washing stations and adding new stairway treads to increase safety when traveling from floor to floor; installing a new HVAC chiller; and replacing up to 50% of the roof.
Grandview Heights High School improvements include: a complete transformation of unused space into the Health and Wellness Center (cost offset by private donors and booster organizations); a complete renovation and expansion of the Wrestling room; complete renovation of the Band and Vocal Music rooms; replacing a HVAC compressor to the chiller; replacing 80% of the roof; patching, painting, and repairing the locker rooms at Bobcat Stadium; and turf replacement for Anderson Field.
We have renovated two to three academic classrooms yearly throughout the district. District offices and working spaces have been relocated to improve public access, meeting space, collaboration, and communication for the Superintendent, Chief Academic Officer, Treasurer, Registrar, and Director of Facilities.
For more information on permanent improvement projects, a detailed PI Fund expenditure report for the last five years can be found on the Facility Planning webpage.
In Spring 2016, the district faced three unplanned, unbudgeted expenditures. The first was a major leak in the Grandview Heights High School roof. This project cost the district $156,000 to repair. The second was the breakdown of an elevator leaving Grandview Heights High School students, families, and visitors with disabilities facing serious challenges. It cost the district $26,000 to repair the elevator. The third unplanned expenditure was the rupturing of a hot water tank at Grandview Heights High School costing the district $7,000 to replace.
As a result of these emergency expenditures, totaling $189,000, we had to delay addressing other high-priority maintenance issues such as remodeling additional classrooms or purchasing more technology infrastructure.
On May 1, 2017, we learned that we have an operating boiler that needs to be completely replaced. The estimated cost of this replacement is between $80,000 and $100,000. We also must replace the gutters at the high school as well as paint the underside of the gutters at a cost of approximately $40,000.
Ohio school districts are funded through state aid and operating levies paid by local taxpayers. Based on a complex school funding formula developed by the state, which takes into account property values and student enrollment, Grandview Heights Schools is identified as a wealthy district and, accordingly, receives very little state aid, less than 10% of our operating budget. As a result, the burden to fund our schools rests largely with our local taxpayers. We are thankful for community support and are proud of this community’s generous commitment to education.
There are three general types of local tax levies, each with a unique purpose, as follows:
Operating levies are tax levies that support our general operations including teachers, support staff, classroom supplies, utilities, insurance, and other general operating costs. Our community approved a 5.9 mill operating levy in November 2014 to fund our schools.
Permanent Improvement (PI) levies are local tax levies earmarked for facilities and equipment with an estimated useful life of five years or more. Our district has a 1.75 mill PI levy, approved by voters in November 2010. This levy generates approximately $540,000 dollars annually to cover the costs of facility maintenance and repairs and classroom technology, including student chromebooks.
The PI Committee meets bi-monthly to collaborate and prioritize district facility and technology needs. While we make every effort to plan and prioritize these dollars strategically and responsibly, we are often faced with the challenge of emergency building repairs which continually requires the committee to re-prioritize and defer many of the building maintenance needs to future years. The limited funds and the continual deferral of proactive building maintenance to address emergency needs is a large factor in the significant deferred maintenance costs we are facing.
Bond levies are local property tax levies that raise money to repay debt (e.g., bonds) that is issued to fund major capital projects, including building construction and/or renovations, and vehicle and equipment purchases.
In November 1994, Grandview Heights/Marble Cliff voters passed a 5.52 mill levy for the issuance of $13 million dollars in construction bonds to improve the district’s facilities. Improvements included creating additional classroom and instructional areas and constructing a gym/multi-purpose facility at Edison Intermediate/Larson Middle School.
Similar to a home mortgage, as those bonds are paid off, the interest payments gradually decrease and the millage paid by our taxpayers is reduced accordingly. Today, that levy has dropped to 2.9 mills. Following the payoff of the bonds in 2019, this levy will be eliminated.
To provide some perspective, a 2.9 mill levy today would generate enough to finance a project of approximately $15 million.
With all the growth, construction, and job creation happening at Grandview Yard, it is logical to think a windfall of money would be available to our school, but Grandview Yard will have minimal financial impact on the schools for the next 25-30 years.
However, due to a complex public-private agreement and tax exemptions known as Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, very little property tax revenue from the growth of Grandview Yard will go to fund our schools in the foreseeable future. In fact, much of the revenue generated will go to repay the private investors who financed the public improvements required to make the once blighted area into a thriving part of our community.
In lieu of tax revenue, the school district does receive funding through an agreement between the city and the schools, but these funds primarily serve as a “hold harmless,” which simply replaces the tax revenue that was lost when major property demolition began on the land.
“New” funding generated by the Grandview Yard has totaled $1,061,000 since 2010. These funds represent a small fraction (less than 1% per year) of the district’s annual general fund operating budget.
Every public school district in Ohio is eligible to make application for any facility project to be an Ohio Facilities Construction Commission project. However, there is a direct correlation with the wealth of the community and the percent that the district would be eligible to receive. Grandview Heights Schools would likely pay 95% of any facility project, with the state contributing 5%, and the state will not pay for certain costs such as athletic facilities or school space above a set per-student square footage. It’s also unclear what year state aid would be available to Grandview Heights Schools. Due to only realizing 5% from the state, it would not be fiscally advantageous to engage in an OFCC process.
The community-led Facility Task Force has been established to help provide feedback and guide the community education process as well as offer feedback and guidance to the Board of Education and the administrative team. Their work thus far has included helping the district hire a professional educational planner; helping us design a process for community engagement; reviewing the outcomes of the facility assessments and providing feedback; and providing feedback regarding the three presented draft options. These individuals were selected by the Board of Education, Superintendent, and Treasurer based on their professional experiences and insights associated with a facility planning process or related community engagement processes. These individuals will continue to serve as an advisory group throughout the entire process.
8. How were our consultants selected to work with Grandview Heights Schools?
The Facility Task Force, in collaboration with district leadership, engaged in a comprehensive process to hire each consultant who is working with the district.
9. How much has the district spent on consultants for the Facility Planning Process?
It is common practice for public sector entities to hire construction and building experts to help guide and facilitate a building project. The wealth of knowledge they bring to a facilities plan ensures the process runs smoothly and efficiently, and they help us navigate a very complex process. In fact, they often can help us save money in the long-term because of their experience. As of July 31, 2017, the district has spent the following:
10. When will the athletic facility assessment occur?
The Athletic Director recently assembled a committee to review the district's K-12 outdoor athletic complex north of Grandview Heights High School. The committee consisted of 12 community members with experience in athletic facility planning, architecture, law, Title IX compliance, coaching, athletic administration, college and professional athletics, and school administration. The committee evaluated the athletic facilities and prioritized the facility needs in terms of participant and spectator safety, ADA compliance, and gender equity. The committee reviewed potential costs based on athletic master plans from similar athletic projects in the area. The Athletic Director then delivered the committee's recommendations to the superintendent on April 24, 2017, as part of the district's overall facilities planning process.
11. Can the district collaborate with the city and library on a potential facility project?
Grandview Heights Schools and the City of Grandview Heights share multiple facilities, including Pierce Field for Stevenson Elementary recess, and several other city parks for school district extracurricular activities such as baseball, softball, and tennis. Correspondingly, the district provides its facilities for various programs through the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. The district and city also partner financially in initiatives that provide the school district crossing guards and wellness programming in the Grandview Heights High School Health and Wellness Center. We believe these relationships are vital in our small community and enhance the services that we can provide to residents.
Our district continues to actively meet with our city partners to explore additional opportunities for shared services and facilities that could enhance efficiency and add benefit to our community.
12. What are the enrollment projections for Grandview Heights Schools?
Over the last 20 years, our district has experienced a gradual decline in enrollment from 1,500 students to 1,080 students. For the 2016-2017 school year, we have experienced an enrollment increase of 20 students. Enrollment projections have been completed by FutureThink, a professional enrollment projections company. According to FutureThink, by 2026-2027 our enrollment is projected to be 1,202 students. For estimation purposes, we are using an enrollment number of 1,220 student per square foot.
13. How would learning look differently as a result of improved 21st Century Learning spaces?
Designing 21st Century Learning spaces starts with asking the question: "What knowledge and skills do students need for the 21st Century?" Students and teachers need spaces where they can hone the skills and knowledge that today’s colleges and job markets expect. This means seamless access to technology and flexible space that can be easily move to collaborate, create, and enhance their problem-solving skills. Classrooms must also be equipped to prepare students for experiences and careers that have changed drastically over the last century such as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programming.
14. I am aware that there is an existing 2.9 mill bond levy that is “coming off the books” in December 2019. If the district asked for a new levy, equal to the existing levy, what size project would that fund? How much are Grandview Heights/Marble Cliff residents currently paying on this levy?
The current 2.9 mill bond levy costs residents $89 per $100,000 of valuation each year ($266 for a $300,000 property). Bond levies gradually decrease over the life of the levy, as the amount needed to retire principal and interest generally decreases. Accordingly, we expect this levy will be reduced below 2.9 mills in 2018 and further reduced in 2019, until the levy expires.
If the district were to pass a new bond levy, equal to the existing 2.9 mill levy (the 2017 millage rate), that would finance a project of approximately $15,000,000.
15. I am aware that the district has an existing Permanent Improvement levy that is used for technology and building maintenance/repairs. How much does that levy generate and what is the current amount of taxes that our residents pay?
Grandview Heights Schools has a 1.75 mill Permanent Improvement levy, approved by voters in 2010. This levy generates approximately $540,000 per year and is restricted for facility maintenance/improvements and district technology equipment. The current Permanent Improvement levy costs residents about $54 per $100,000 of valuation per year ($162 for a $300,000 property).
16. Are there any limitations on the size of a potential facility project?
Yes. Ohio Law limits the amount of debt a school district may issue, based on a complex formula that takes into consideration property valuation trends and existing outstanding debt. Grandview Heights Schools’ current debt ceiling is currently $45.3 million, although this amount is a moving target as property values change and existing debt is paid off.
17. What would the cost be if Grandview Heights Schools asked for a bond levy equal to our current borrowing capacity of $45.3 million?
Bond levies are the most common financing mechanism for school district facility projects in Ohio, and require approval by a vote of the community. Grandview Heights Schools has a current bond capacity of $45.3 million. If the District were to finance a project equal to this current bond capacity, it would require a bond levy of approximately 8.2 mills, costing residents $288 per $100,000 of valuation each year. However, it is also important to understand that the district has a current 2.9 mill bond levy which will expire in 2019. That levy currently costs residents $89 per $100,000 of valuation. The overall effect of the new levy with the offsetting decrease from the expiring levy would result in a net increase of approximately $200 per $100,000 of valuation ($600 for a $300,000 property).
(Note: These millage rates and costs have been estimated to provide community members with a perspective of overall cost. These amounts are based on several factors, including interest rates, the exact amount of which we do not know at this time. Therefore, actual amounts may differ from these estimates.)
The District’s debt capacity, based on property valuation and current outstanding debt, is recalculated each year by the Ohio Department of Education. While the amount is currently $45.3 million, that amount is likely to increase in 2018, following the Franklin County property reappraisal.
18. Does Grandview Heights Schools have any other options to fund a facility project above the current $45.3 million bond borrowing capacity?
While Ohio law limits the amount of bonded debt a school district can issue, there are other borrowing mechanisms available to school districts. In certain circumstances, schools may borrow against the future proceeds of a tax levy, or other revenue stream, when faced with a project cost that exceeds the bond capacity limit.
And, while the limit is currently $45.3 million, that amount is likely to increase in 2018 following the Franklin County property reappraisal and a scheduled December 2017 principal payment on the district’s existing 2.9 mill bond issue.
19. Property values in Franklin County are currently being reassessed as part of a state-mandated reappraisal. How will this impact my taxes?
Ohio law requires the Franklin County Auditor to perform a full property value reappraisal, which includes Grandview Heights and Marble Cliff, every six years. That reappraisal is currently taking place with adjusted property values taking effect January 1, 2018. The percentage increase in your property valuation does not necessarily mean your taxes will increase by that same percentage.
A state law, commonly known as House Bill 920, limits inflationary growth on voted tax levies. With a few exceptions, such as new construction, millage rates are reduced as property valuation increases to generate approximately the same amount of money for the school district. The impact of House Bill 920 is why most school districts in Ohio are forced to periodically seek additional operating levy funds from residents.
Inside millage, which represents 5 mills of the total 45.88 mills applicable to residential property, is another exception to that rule. As property valuation increases, inside millage rates are not reduced, thereby resulting in increased taxes.
Property reappraisals, such as the one currently taking place in Franklin County, can also impact your tax burden. If your property increases by a higher percentage than the community average, you will realize an increase in taxes. Conversely, if your property increases by a lower percentage than the community average, you may see a reduction in taxes. The reappraisal will likely impact each resident a little bit differently.
20. When do you expect Grandview Heights Schools will need to ask for additional operating levy funds?
The Board of Education and administration work very hard to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars and make every effort to stretch levy dollars as far as possible. While we have not yet begun discussions around the millage amount or the timing of the next operating levy, we can say that over the last two decades, operating levies have lasted approximately four years and have averaged about 6.2 mills.
The current cost to property owners for our most recent operating levy (5.45 mills, passed in November 2014) is approximately $191 per $100,000 of valuation ($572 for a $300,000 property).
21. How will fixing the buildings impact our students’ GPAs and test scores?
Our facility planning process is about the fiscal health of our district, not about student GPA’s or test scores. We will either have to pay a “reasonable” amount now or pay more later. If the outcome of our facility planning process is to do nothing, it could lead to our district needing to use operating dollars to address the deferred maintenance that exists within our facilities.
22. How will the new state budget impact Grandview Heights Schools?
Grandview Heights Schools is expected to receive a significant drop in state funding from $2.2 million in 2016-2017 to $1.5 million in 2017-2018. This $750,000 reduction represents the final phase-out of the tangible personal property tax (TPP) state reimbursement. We were aware of this upcoming funding reduction and accounted for it in our current five year forecast. Beginning in 2017-2018, TPP state reimbursement, which topped more than $1.4 million annually, will be completely eliminated for Grandview Heights Schools.
23. Is there a “do nothing” option? If what is recommended does not pass, then what would happen?
A “do nothing” option or a failed levy would not change the current reality and need that Grandview Heights Schools and our community are facing with respect to our K-12 facilities and the existing deferred maintenance. Were a levy not successful, we would need to return to the community and re-engage in alternate options or solutions. Our facility planning process is about the fiscal health of our district. We will either have to pay a reasonable amount now or pay more later. Were the outcome of our facility planning process be to do nothing, it would lead to our district needing to use operating dollars to address our existing, and potentially ongoing, deferred maintenance issues.
24. Will facilities be our district’s primary focus this year?
Teaching and learning always has been and always will be our district’s main focus. While facility planning will be an important objective for the 2017-2018 school year, we will continue to make teaching and learning our number one priority.
25. How can I get involved and join the conversation?
Our next Community Engagement Meeting #7 will be on Thursday, August 3, at 6:30 p.m. in the Edison Intermediate/Larson Middle School Commons. At this meeting, attendees will be invited to offer feedback via an Exit Ticket. The community, including students and staff, are also invited to complete an online survey based on the revised options presented at the Thursday, June 8, Community Engagement Meeting #6. The survey will be available from June 8 through June 30, 2017.
We also will have several more opportunities for building tours for any and all community members to tour our existing buildings. This is a great way to see the conditions of our facilities first hand.
Residents can also join the conversation by hosting a neighborhood or community coffee whereby the Superintendent, Treasurer, and a board member will come to your house to discuss the process with your neighbors and friends. If you are interested in hosting a coffee, please contact the Superintendent’s office.
The Facility Planning Process Calendar with specific dates, times, and locations for each meeting can be found at http://link.ghcsd.org/facilities. Community members are also encouraged to contact Superintendent Andy Culp with any questions or ideas by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (614) 485-4015.
26. I have more questions. Who can I contact for additional information?
Grandview Heights Schools welcomes questions and ideas from all residents, alumni, staff, and other interested parties. Please feel free to contact us by phone 614-485-4015 or email (email@example.com). The webpage can be accessed at: http://link.ghcsd.org/facilities.