Wednesday , 21 February 2024

North Ridgeville Schools: Please VOTE FOR ISSUE 16

In July, the North Ridgeville Board of Education voted to place on the November ballot an issue to approve the construction of a new high school, an attached auditorium to support arts programming, and a transportation center for bussing and maintenance.

This differs from Issue 5 in May of this year that sought funds for both a new high school and elementary school. The May bid fell just short, losing by a scant 23 votes.

But the need remains. The current high school is still woefully overcrowded.

So, this time around, the Board is focusing on a scaled-back request that includes a new high school.

This prudent approach makes sense. It addresses some of the biggest needs of the district while also respecting the conservative realities of the community.

The growing North Ridgeville community has led to increased enrollment in the school district. The high school currently has approximately 1,500 students enrolled, but the building capacity is only 900 students. Modular units and using every inch of available space is no longer sufficient for students. The current square footage of the high school is 147,000 and in order to accommodate our enrolled students, 272,000 square feet is needed.

Again, the need remains. Please VOTE FOR Issue 16 this November.

Issue 16 Community Forum: Join us for a Community Forum about Issue 16 on Monday, September 18 at 6 PM in the high school cafeteria. There will be a presentation from the Board of Education, followed by a Q&A session and a building tour.

Issue 16: The Need Remains Frequently Asked Questions

Safety to thrive, Space to learn, Environment for Excellence

What is on the November ballot for North Ridgeville City Schools?

Issue 16 is a 6.26 mill bond issue levied for a period of 37 years.  This will provide the funds to build a much needed 9-12 high school with an auditorium and transportation facility. The new building includes updated learning environments, modern safety and security systems, ADA accessibility, classrooms large enough and configured properly for today’s education, up-to-date technology to better meet students’ needs and space to accommodate future growth.

Why does North Ridgeville City Schools need a bond issue for a new school building?

The district has grown by over 100 students per year, for several years and is over capacity at the high school. Further, the State of Ohio reviewed the school buildings and found they do not meet today’s standards for education. The high school is not ADA accessible and students are forced to learn in converted closets and hallways. Just this year, additional modular classrooms are being installed to accommodate the surplus of students. Meanwhile, the district is making expensive repairs to temporarily address the needs of older buildings which drain dollars from education and is not a cost effective use of funds. The State of Ohio independently determined that it will cost nearly as much money to repair, maintain and renovate the schools than it would to build new facilities.

Why can’t the District just repair or renovate the school?

North Ridgeville is one of the fastest growing districts in the state, with over 100 students being added each year. The high school building does not have the capacity to handle these increasing numbers which are projected to grow even more. Further, the buildings are beyond repair and no longer meet the standards required for today’s education. The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) thoroughly reviewed the schools and independently determined the cost to renovate the buildings to minimum standards would be nearly equal to the cost of building new schools. They recommend replacement as it is more fiscally responsible.

How did the buildings get so bad? Did the District ignore repairs?

No, in fact, the opposite is true. District maintenance staff continue to do their best to keep the schools safe and in the best shape possible. This includes spending thousands of dollars each year on basic and “Band-Aid” repairs to expensive, outdated systems that no longer function efficiently. However, due to space shortages and the building’s effective lifespan, most repairs are no longer enough. The high school is not ADA accessible and is over capacity. Students are forced to learn in converted closets and hallways. Continuing to spend money on repairs and makeshift modifications is not the best use of District dollars. The most cost efficient, fiscally responsible, action is to build a new high school to accommodate the district for the next 75 years.

Where will the school be built and when?

The new high school will be built near the current high school. Pending voter approval of the bond issue on November 7, 2023, the District would select an architect and construction management service provider, which would work with the District, including community input, on design and to provide a timeline of when the buildings would be completed. The buildings will be located on land the district already owns. ThenDesign Architecture, which is experienced in school design, reviewed the land and facility needs and will create a “site fit plan” which will be presented to the public. The new buildings will be able to be constructed on existing sites.

What is the cost of the plan and how was it determined?

The total cost of the plan would be approximately $143,015.00. With the passage of Issue 16, the cost to taxpayers would be approximately $18.25 monthly per $100,000 of your home value. The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission works with schools all over the state and created a “design manual” that establishes costs per square foot based on student enrollment. This accounts for recent inflation and current construction costs.

What safeguards are in place to ensure the quality and costs of construction are maintained?

Public school districts must adhere to specific rules and regulations regarding construction projects. The District is committed to being as cost efficient as possible. It will conduct a thorough and value-based search to identify the best architect and the most capable construction management service providers. The construction costs are just estimates and each major component of the construction project will be competitively bid to ensure the District is getting the best pricing.

Is there a model of the facilities and when would they be released?

An architect will be engaged after a bond issue passes. Project design costs between 8-9% of the total cost of construction and it would not be economically responsible to pay for these services before funds are available. This is a typical process for school districts.

When is Issue 16 on the ballot?

Issue 16 is on the November 7, 2023 ballot. On Election Day. Polls are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Early voting in-person and by mail begins on Wednesday, October 11, 2023.

How do I register to vote?

Monday, October 10 is the deadline to register to vote and be eligible to vote in the November election. You can register to vote or check your registration status at www.myohiovote.com. You can also register to vote online:  https://olvr.sos.state.oh.us/IdentificationInformation or in person at the Lorain County Board of Elections, 1985 N Ridge Rd. Lorain, OH 44055.

With inflation the way it is, why should we build now? Why is this the right time?

There is never a good time to ask for money. While we recognize that we can’t control world conditions or inflation, we believe it is the right time because it solves a critical need for space for the district. In 2019, the district placed a similar bond issue on the ballot to create these spaces. The exact same project was $140 million, and since then, construction costs have only risen. While in 2019, the issue didn’t pass, they knew they needed to ask again because the overcrowded conditions would only get worse. This is a natural evolution of the process that started then. The district will continue to place this issue on the ballot until the overcrowding issues are addressed.

Why don’t we just stop the development that’s happening in North Ridgeville to slow the population growth?

When you look at the growth of the community, North Ridgeville has increased by 22,000 residents over the last 20 years. The bigger subdivisions were approved in 2003 and those are now complete. The pace of growth will start to slow down slightly but there’s still a lot of undeveloped land in the City of North Ridgeville and most of it is residential. When a property is zoned residential and a project comes to the city meeting the zoning classification, there is a legal obligation to allow the development. We work with the property owners and the developers to arrive at something that’s the best for the city but we are mostly obligated to allow that development. As a municipal entity, we can’t just stop the growth or development. That said, you want a community to grow. You don’t want a community that shrinks. There are plenty of examples in neighboring communities that have lost residents and usually there are consequences to that exodus.

With additional housing and the additional business moving into the community, what does that do to the costs of this bond issue and the city income tax moving forward?

A bond issue is essentially a “fixed sum bond.” It is not subject to House Bill 920, so your taxes are not going to go up if the value of your home goes up. We would still be dealing with the same fixed sum, regardless of how much your home is worth over time. Given the rate of growth in North Ridgeville, it’s likely that the taxes associated with this levy would actually go down when new homes and businesses are added. Essentially you are taking the same fixed sum and spreading it over a larger tax base. This happens because there are more people who are helping to pay.

Do new buildings mean better education? How has the new Academic Center affected academic achievement?

As a district, student achievement has grown for the past four years. With our latest district report card, we were proud of those results. The state enacted a star system and North Ridgeville has most recently achieved the highest rating possible, 5 stars, for student academic achievement. Students are “well above,” or “exceeding” what the State of Ohio expects.

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