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Marietta schools requests $55 million bond issue from state

The Marietta City Schools board of education unanimously passed a resolution Monday night to request permission from the state to put a bond levy for $55,670,000 to district voters in November.

The next step in the project to rebuild the district’s schools, after the state grants permission, will be to send the bond proposal to the Washington County auditor to determine the mill rate needed to raise that amount of money, district treasurer Frank Antill said. Following that, the bond proposal will be prepared to go on the ballot in the November election.

The board has discussed the project for more than a year, and in May announced an agreement for land with Washington State Community College. The proposal would replace the district’s six aging buildings with three new ones on a single campus.

Antill said the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, which participates in building construction with local districts, under the current offer will pick up 39 percent of the total cost, subject to rigorous standards and some restrictions. In essence, the state will pay 39 percent of the basic costs, and any items outside the guidelines will need to be funded 100 percent by the local levy. Estimating the cost using Marietta’s share of the bond, the project would come in at about $92 million.

Board president Doug Mallett said the response from the state will confirm its share of the project.

“The board will take official action once we know what the state’s portion is,” he said. “This was actually the first step.”

The deadline for getting the levy on the ballot is July 25, so Mallett said he expects the board to ratify the final ballot language at its July 22 meeting.

Marietta’s school facilities are both old and oversized, built for a student population of 4,000, with the most recent structure, Marietta High School, having been put up in the 1960s. Enrollment this year was about 2,700 students, and the district continues to encounter challenges in maintaining the buildings and modernizing them, along with difficulties in safety and security posed by the buildings’ basic design.

If the bond fails, there is no guarantee that the state’s presumed offer of 39 percent will hold.

“There is no assurance beyond what it is right now what the state’s portion will be,” Mallett said. “One thing for sure, the further you push it out, the more expensive it will be, from construction costs alone.”

Wendy Brewer is leading the community organization advocating for passage of the levy.

“We’ve built a marketing strategy, and you’ll start hearing us on the radio,” she said. “We’re continuing to add information to the website (MCSLevy.org), and once we’ve got concrete information we’ll be able to answer more public questions.”

Brewer said the effort will gather steam as the summer vacation season winds up.

“We made presentations to community groups in May, and we’re really going to gear up in August. We’re working on our message and we’re going to get it in front of everybody as the weeks pass,” she said. “We’re going to schedule public meetings, forums where anybody can come and ask questions.”

The Marietta City Schools board:

• Approved a resolution to request permission from the state to put a $55 million bond levy to voters.

• Authorized an agreement for employee health insurance in which premiums for a family plan are $24, 814.32, with the district paying 85 percent of the premiums.

• Approved professional and extracurricular appointments, hiring of substitutes and teachers, and appointments of classified staff.

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