Big Walnut area residents folks expect some clarification of the school district’s direction following the November 8 defeat of the district’s $133.9 million, 8.3-mil bond issue.
The bond issue, on the ballot because district enrollment projections indicate that Big Walnut would grow from an approximately 3,400-student school district this year to 6,000 students by 2025, would have allowed the immediate construction of one new elementary building, and started the four-year process of building an 1,850-student high school.
The bond issue would also have included funds to add on to the district’s current middle school building, and also fund needed renovations to the district’s older buildings.
At the Nov. 16 Board of Education meeting, superintendent Angie Pollock thanked Community For Eagle Pride Chair Liana Lee and all of the volunteers that worked on the bond issue campaign, but did not provide any immediate indication of what the district would do to meet the need for more space created by increasing student populations.
“We need to have conversations about our next step before final decisions are made about what we will do next,” Pollock said. “But we will be sharing those decisions soon.”
Board vice-president Andy Wecker noted that over 11,000 district voters had spoken, and the result was heard.
“Our voters have always been loyal; we’ve always trusted their results,” Wecker said. “I guess things like this just take a little time. Sometimes something like this is a lot for people to absorb. We’ll all just keep talking with each other.”
Board president Mindy Meyer said many voters might have had unanswered questions about the need for the bond issue.
“There will be a lot of questions as we move forward,” Meyer said. “We will work diligently answering those questions and make certain everybody has facts. Don’t hesitate to ask if you have questions, and if we don’t have an answer for you, we will find it.”
Liana Lee said she was personally very disappointed with the election results.
“We appreciate the voters who supported our bond issue and thank our campaign volunteers,” Lee said. “They did much work behind the scenes. Many people questioned the efforts of our committee. My response to them is: Please come and join us.”
In other business, district treasurer Terri Eyerman reported that the district refunded (refinanced) a 2009 bond, saving $400,000 over the life of the bond for members of the community.
Eyerman emphasized that refinancing the bond does not add those dollars to school district coffers; its $400,000 that taxpayers will not have to pay to resolve the debt.
Eyerman also noted that the district’s employee health insurance premium increased by 8.9 percent for the coming year.
“That may seem like a lot,” Eyerman said. “But we were told to expect a 10-percent-to-14-percent increase.”
In other savings, Eyerman said the district’s new contract with Ohio School Master Consortium sets an electricity rate of $.03532 per kWh. The current rate is $.04 per kWh. The consortium is of 130 electricity users in the state, mostly schools.
There will be a special Big Walnut Local School District Board of Education meeting at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday, December 8, at the Administrative Office.
The next regularly scheduled board of education meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, December 15, in the Big Walnut High School Media (Innovation) Center.
Reporter Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093.