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MCS responds to resident

On Aug. 19, Kathy Shively spoke to the Marietta City School Board of Education during the Citizen Forum portion of the agenda. On Aug. 20, she provided a written copy of her comments after being requested to during the meeting by the Board Treasurer. Those same comments were printed in the Marietta Times on Aug. 28. Below is the information sent to Ms. Shively on Aug. 21.

Ms. Shively,

Thank you for taking the time to attend the Marietta City School District Board of Education meeting on 7/19/2019. We appreciate the input received during the citizen’s forum portion of our meeting, but unfortunately cannot effectively manage the meeting if we respond to each question raised. We do attempt to follow up and insure concerns are adequately addressed.

The proposed levy and underlying plan and process to provide new facilities for Marietta City School District students was started two years ago and comes from the clear recognition of the need to address; improved preparation of our students for jobs available in the future, the diversion of resources from education to maintaining the aging structures in the district, and the inefficiencies and costs associated with building capacities much greater than the current student populations.

The Board and District Administration believe the most effective way to address the issues is to build new facilities, then transition the students directly from the current buildings to the new facilities in one step. If we are unsuccessful in passing the levy, we will be faced with determining a more effective way to utilize the existing buildings. Then transition the students to a revised configuration, while still needing to deal with the long term issue of old buildings.

There has been a lot of work done with the proposed levy and building plan and we are happy to share the information. I believe Mr. Mallett reached out to you prior to the school board meeting with the offer to discuss the levy and answer any questions you had. The offer to meet and expand upon the answers below remains open.

The District personnel and the community committee supporting the levy are working diligently to communicate the facts about the levy, gather up questions raised and insure answers are available both on the website MCSLevy.org and directly. Meetings with the public are part of the ongoing effort to communicate about the levy. A schedule of events and presentations is on the MCSLevy.org website.

I have attempted to address the specific questions you raised about the levy and plan below:

The proposed levy is for 37 years. A 4.35 percent interest rate was used by the county auditor to calculate the expect millage if all $55,000,000 of bonds are issued. The projected millage is 5.36 mils. The actual millage will be what is needed to service the bonds based on the actual dollar amount and interest rate. The 4.35 percent was viewed as relatively conservative with the belief a better interest rate can be obtained resulting in a lower than projected millage. Also, as appraised value in the district goes up through new investment or reassessment, the applied millage goes down as only enough funds need to be collected to service the bonds.

Proceeds from properties sold (following the dictated state processes) would either reduce the bond load or allow the district to further enhance the facilities. In either approach the sales proceeds go toward permanent improvement and not general operating funds.

Purchase Price of the property at Washington State Community College – In the Letter of Intent signed by WSCC and MCSD earlier in the year the agreed upon purchase price is $6,000 per acre. The land being obtained is within the city limits.

The total project of approximately $85,000,000 is the result of just over $75,000,000 of items which are jointly funded by the State of Ohio and Marietta City School District and Just under $10,000,000 of funds described as Locally Funded Initiatives paid for solely by Marietta City School District. The Locally Funded Initiatives or LFI’s are necessary to cover work not included in the state funding. The difference in funding sources is important in understanding some of the answers to your remaining questions.

The 49 acres available from Washington State is enough property to build the academic building with gym space to support the indoor sports. While we may have adequate room to include a practice field for football, soccer and band to utilize and potentially a practice track, it does not provide room for a full athletic complex.

Extracurricular activities are an important aspect of helping keep students engaged in the learning experience and providing different opportunities and avenues to learn important life lessons. The district is committed to having an active program of extracurricular activities to enhance student experience.

The State of Ohio does not provide any financial assistance for athletic facilities or for an auditorium house. i.e. they will pay for the stage as part of a cafetorium, but the cost of building the house and seating for an auditorium must be part of the LFI’s. The first priority for spending of the LFI money included in the project estimate is the construction of a robust building, one that will last well past the 37 years of the bond issue. The State of Ohio does not provide adequate money for site preparation and traffic changes. The specific building design and costs will be developed during the design process, which comes after the levy approval and the hiring of an architectural firm to lead us through the process. We believe we included adequate money in the LFI budget to insure we have a true auditorium as part of the district facilities and there was strong support during the visioning session in May to have it as part of the new complex and integral to the academic facilities. We also believe we will have some LFI funds to support improvements to our off-site athletic facilities.

Along with the design and development of the academic campus, we will be doing a detail analysis of the district properties and their potential use to support the priorities of the district. We will also be looking for private support from the community to supplement the public funding of the extracurricular facilities. Finding the right balance of centralizing and improving district facilities, cooperating in facility usage with Marietta College and coordinating with other community groups will be the goal.

My personal view is it will be important for the district to sell any of the facilities/lands not being used, to both reduce the debt load and reduce the operating costs of maintaining them.

Transportation – we expect to see an increase in the number of students using the bus to get to school. It will likely result in a need for additional busses and cost. We currently have a transportation program viewed very favorably by the State of Ohio with regards to efficiency. Each bus does multiple routes in the morning and afternoon supported by staggered starting and ending times. A similar approach is planned for the new facility. One improvement in transportation efficiency is we currently have busses running between the different elementary schools and between the high school and middle school. Delivering students to a single location will simplify the routing.

State Share – Warren vs Marietta. The fraction of the jointly funded project portion paid by the state is determined by a formula. The State looks at the apparent wealth of the district, then ranks the districts and determines the local share based on the district ranking on the list.

The largest factor in the ranking is the property value per student. With a larger industrial and commercial base, Marietta has a higher property value per student than Warren Local and as a result is expected to pay a larger local share of the project.

Currently the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) would assign a 71% local share/29% state share to Marietta City School District. With the vision for collaboration between Washington State Community College and Marietta City School District in programming, sharing facilities and developing career pathways, we have been successful in getting the OFCC to agree to let us keep the 39% state share effective from 2002 when we upgraded some of the existing facilities. The vision of collaboration has been strongly supported by both our legislators and the State leadership. The district worked with our State Representatives Edwards and Jones, State Senator Hogland and the Dewine administration through Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, resulting in legislation being included in the recently passed budget. The legislation insures we can keep the higher state share and move to the top of the priority list for state funding if we pass the bond levy and proceed with building the new facilities on the Washington State land.

The visioning exercise the District went through in May with 60 students, teachers, administrators business leaders and community members is an important guide to our work. The output and conclusions of the group highlight the importance of developing small learning communities within the school structure to support student connection and engagement. The group felt strongly in both the focus on small learning communities in the design of the building and the single building concept for the district.

The approach of building one building saves $5,000,000 in construction costs, making the facility we are considering and the state share we have obtained the least expensive option the community will ever have to get new buildings.

I am sure my answers will prompt additional questions and encourage you to reach out to myself, Doug Mallett, Will Hampton or Jona Hall with your questions. We would all be happy to engage with you and discuss the future of the district with or without new buildings.

Regards,

Russ Garrison

Vice President, Marietta City School District Board of Education