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Marietta board moves to meet project deadline

At a brief – four minutes, to be exact – meeting Tuesday morning, the Marietta City Schools Board of Education took another step toward securing state funding for its proposed building project.

The board held the special meeting to pass a resolution to participate in the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission classroom facilities assistance program, using enrollment projections set in May. The resolution will be sent to the OFCC for consideration at the commission’s meeting next week.

The project, described as the construction of a new elementary-middle school-high school complex with abatement and demolition allowances for the district’s six existing schools, is budgeted at $75,731,803. That figure includes the allowable scope for state funding participation but does not include approximately $10 million in wholly local costs beyond that scope. The abatement and demolition costs are included in the state-funded amount but will be used only if the actions become necessary.

“We’re here to get approval to go into that program, and the OFCC meets Thursday, then the resolution goes to the commission,” board vice president Russ Garrison said, explaining why the special meeting was necessary to meet a deadline.

The project is conditional on voter approval of the $55 million levy on the ballot Nov. 5, which would provide the local costs. If approved, the new school complex would be built on 49 acres of property owned by Washington State Community College and adjacent to the college campus. The total cost is estimated at about $85 million.

Because of a provision added to the state budget for this year, co-locating the project with a state community college might qualify the project for an additional 10 percentage points of state funding support and move the project to the head of the line for OFCC approval.

The provision, however, is effective only until July of next year.

The district also has moved over the past week to engage a business advisory consulting firm, Baker Tilly, to assist in selecting an underwriter for the bond issue.

“We put out a request for proposals for underwriting services. We got replies from seven firms, and we’ve narrowed it down to three,” said district treasurer Frank Antill. “Baker Tilly is sort of our eyes and ears when we sell the bonds.”

The board is expected to make a decision on the underwriting firm next week, he said.

The underwriter’s terms can have a significant impact on the long-term cost of the project because of interest rates, Antill said. The cost of borrowing has been estimated at 4.35 percent, but the applicable current interest rates on the market are below that, which would mean lower costs to the district.

“It’s less than that right now, but it’s a 90-day process,” he said. That means the rates in February would apply if the project is approved by voters in November.

“Even something as small as a quarter-point in interest can make a big difference,” he said.

The board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 28 at the administrative offices on Academy Drive.

Michael Kelly can be contacted at mkelly@mariettatimes.com.

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