NORTH RIDGEVILLE - Voters will be asked Nov. 5 to approve $136.6 million plan to remake and update the North Ridgeville school district and also to provide money to keep the district operating.

North Ridgeville City Schools officials say the district is at a pivotal point in its history with out-of-date schools over capacity because of continuing residential growth that’s bringing in new students.

District leaders want to build a new high school, a 1,000-seat performing arts center and elementary school for students in kindergarten through third grade. Issue 16, a maximum 37-year bond issue, would fund that construction. The performing arts center would be added onto the new high school, said Sam Ameen, a spokesman for the district.

Voters also will be asked to adopt Issue 17, an 11.72-mill replacement levy that will combine four existing voter-approved tax levies into one. The levy raises $10.6 million annually to help cover the district’s operating costs.

District Superintendent Roxann Ramsey-Caserio said that when the existing buildings were built more than 40 years ago, they were meant to house 4,000 students. The district has an enrollment of 4,640 students this year. Students are continuing to pour in to the point the district now has converted some hallways into makeshift classrooms, she said.

“Our students are currently learning in spaces that were never meant for teaching and learning,” she said. “If we don't come together to do something soon, the education of our students will pay the price. It is time to build a new high school and a new elementary school that will better accommodate modern teaching and learning, and our growing student enrollment."

If approved, Issue 16 would cost residents about $22 a month, or $266 a year per each $100,000 assessed value of a home. So the owner of a home valued at $300,000 would see property taxes go up nearly $800 a year.

The millage is 7.54 over a maximum length of 37 years and is separate from the substitute levy. By law, the bond issue can only raise money for capital costs such as building construction.

Issue 17 would not raise taxes because it is a renewal.

The building plan also calls for converting the North Ridgeville Academic Center into a school for students in grades four through eight. Ranger High-Tech Academy students would be integrated throughout the three school buildings. The Early Childhood Learning Center would be a Pre-K building only.

The high school building is more than 50 years old, and Liberty Elementary is 43 years old. Similar to the city, the district is experiencing growth, district spokesman Sam Ameen said.

Based on community growth and the condition of the existing buildings, the state would pay 24% of the construction project’s cost, according to the district.

North Ridgeville is the third fastest-growing school district in Ohio, according to school board President Kelly McCarthy.

“Liberty Elementary is also at capacity and does not have amenities such as a full gym or cafeteria," McCarthy said.

The substitute levy is a continuing levy to replace four existing ones set to expire between this year and 2022, and will raise $10.6 million in its first year, according to the district.

The substitute levy would cover about 40 percent of the district’s operating costs such as supplies and equipment, essential school programs, teaching staff and services.

"As the district continues to grow, passing the substitute levy will keep the district fiscally sound through 2022,” Ramsey-Caserio said. “Both the bond issue and the operating issue are critical to providing high-quality education for our community."

She conceded that it is never easy to approach the community for additional funding, “but the fact remains that state funding is not enough to provide and protect education."

Liberty’s new school building would cost about $47 million; a new high school would cost an estimated $82 million and the cost to raze them is estimated at $2.9 million. The performing arts center would cost $7.5 million.

No cost has been determined for the transportation building because it would fall under certificate of participation funding, a tax-exempt lease-funding agreement.

The bond is capped at $132.9 million under the proposed master plan’s cost. The bond cap is based on the value of the community with growth factored in, Ameen said.

In January 2018, the Facilities Planning Commission began meeting. It included Mayor David Gillock, City Council President Kevin Corcoran and Safety Services Director Jeff Armbruster.

Two parents were included on the commission as well as several teachers, guidance counselors and principals. The superintendent, associate superintendent, treasurer and two board members also were on the commission.

"The building of new schools is not only beneficial to the community, it is a great opportunity to provide more educational opportunities for our students," said Mike McMillan, president of the North Ridgeville Education Association.

Contact this reporter at msakal@westlifenews.com or 440-871-5797.

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