About the May 2 PI Levy
In December, Pickerington Schools Board of Education voted 5-0 to place a 3-mill permanent improvements (PI) levy on the May 2, 2017, ballot.
A 3-mill levy equates to approximately $105 per year for every $100,000 of a property’s market value, according to the county auditor. That is about 29 cents per day.
For a $200,000 home, this would be about $210 per year. For a $300,000 home, it would be approximately $315 per year.
The levy would generate about $3.6 million per year for the district.
On Friday, April 21, Superintendent Valerie Browning-Thompson and Ryan Jenkins were interviewed on Refreshing 90.9FM about the May 2 levy. Starting Saturday, April 22, you’ll be able to download and listen to the interviews on the station’s website.
A permanent improvements (PI) levy provides funds for ongoing permanent improvements. Revenues also can be used to fund specific construction projects.
A bond levy is a tax. The proceeds can only pay off bonds and notes issued by government agencies for permanent improvements. Bond issues cannot pay for ongoing maintenance.
An operating levy raises funds for the operations of the school, including things like salaries, instructional support, utilities, plant operations, computers, extracurricular costs, transportation, and other similar expenditures. The portion of these funds that come from our local community come from property or income tax.
Currently, the district does not have a significant guaranteed, earmarked revenue stream for capital projects.* Capital projects are things that have a lifespan of at least five years, such as school buildings, facilities, technology infrastructure, mechanicals (such as HVAC), plumbing, and the like.
Each year, the board of education must move money to the capital budget from the operating budget (which pays for things like teacher, support, and administrative salaries; instructional support; pupil support; technology; and transportation.)
This is not considered a “best practice” for financial management in a district, because it does not allow schools to effectively plan for the future and protect the community’s existing investments in its schools and other facilities.
The PI levy would provide an ongoing stream of earmarked revenue that would allow the district to more effectively plan and manage an ongoing capital program.
Such planning is critical in protecting the investments our community already has generously provided to the district in terms of buildings and facilities.
By eliminating the annual need for the board of education to transfer money from the operating fund for capital projects, the district would reduce the likelihood that unexpected capital expenses would negatively impact operating budgets.
In short, having revenue earmarked for a capital program:
- protects the community’s current investments through a thoughtful program of scheduled and unscheduled maintenance;
- ensures existing district facilities provide a safe, secure, 21st-century learning environment; and
- allows the district to invest in new academic and athletic facilities when appropriate to ensure Pickerington remains a “community of choice” for current and future residents.
* The district receives about $620,000 per year from a 0.5-mill maintenance levy the district was required to have voters approve in order to receive funds from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission when Sycamore Creek Elementary, Toll Gate Elementary and Toll Gate Middle School were built. These funds may be used for some interior capital projects in select buildings.
Component one: Dedicated revenue for capital improvements and maintenance
Capital projects like pavement, roofing and HVAC systems aren’t necessarily as glamorous as the proposed new construction projects, but it is important that the community understand they are a major component of the PI levy.
From the perspective of long-term planning and protecting the community’s current investment, guaranteed revenue to implement capital plans are critical to the future of our schools and are a primary reason this PI levy is on the ballot.
In terms of ongoing capital projects tied to this first component of the PI levy, the district projects the following needs over the next 10 to 15 years:
- Paving: $8 million
- Roofing: $3.25 million
- Mechanical systems: $7.8 million
- Painting and carpet: $1.1 million
- Safety and security: $860,000
- Technology infrastructure: $1.7 million
Each of these figures would be spread out over the next decade to 15 years. To put these numbers into perspective, Pickerington Schools manages 442 acres of property, 2.57 million square feet of pavement, and 1.65 million square feet of building space to maintain!
Component two: New facilities
In addition to protecting the community’s current investment, this permanent improvements levy would pay for some specific new construction projects. Many of these projects have been requested by the community for many years. Those projects include:
- A new stadium with turf and an 8-lane track at PHSC
- Turf and other improvements at PHSN stadium
- Press box, lighting, and other upgrades to auxiliary fields at PHSN
- Competition baseball facilities at PHSC
- Softball hub at PHSN
- Work on multipurpose fields
- Upgraded tennis courts at Lakeview Junior High
- Playground maintenance throughout district
The district owns a piece of land near Pickerington High School Central for the new stadium. Projects at Pickerington High School North would be performed on the sites of the existing facilities.
At this time, the district does not have detailed designs, precise cost estimates, or a concrete timeline for these improvements, as it would not be prudent to expend significant resources on designs until we have voter approval.
The district currently is going through the processes involved with seeking a qualified architectural firm to assist with design and planning. More detailed plans and a timeline will be provided to the community after a firm is selected.
There are several reasons the current site is not ideal.
First and foremost, the stadium is located within both a floodway and the 100-year flood plain. Placing artificial turf in areas prone to flooding is a recipe for disaster, as flooding would certainly destroy the turf and cost the district a considerable amount of money for replacement.
The current stadium site also is not well-suited for the district to add additional lanes to the existing track. Currently, the stadium has only six lanes, which makes it impossible for the district to host major track invitational events. Expanding and regrading the track to allow for eight lanes (instead of the existing six lanes) is impractical from a design standpoint on the existing site.
The existing site also is problematic from an accessibility standpoint. The stadium exists in a significant depression, so it is difficult for individuals in wheelchairs and with other mobility challenges to access the stadium.
A new stadium also would provide for much improved parking.
The existing stadium would be maintained as an auxiliary field and for use by Ridgeview STEM Junior High School.
Why is this a continuing levy? Once these projects are paid off, why would you need to keep collecting funds?
There are a few reasons the school board decided to make this a continuing permanent improvements levy rather than a temporary one.
The district anticipates that about half the initial revenue collected by the 3-mill PI levy would go toward athletic facility improvements. The other half would be used as a guaranteed revenue stream to pay for ongoing capital repairs, maintenance, and improvements.
Based on past experience, the cost for such ongoing repairs and maintenance will continue to increase, especially as our buildings age. (Most of our buildings were constructed in the past 20 years and have not needed as much maintenance as they will need in the future.)
Thus, as the loans the district would take out for the athletic facility construction projects are paid off, the freed–up funds will likely be needed to offset the naturally increasing cost of district-wide building and facility maintenance, as well as the increased cost of maintaining older buildings.
Looking around Pickerington and Violet Township, it does seem like there’s a lot of construction in the area! And while it would be easy to assume that means lot of additional kids coming into our schools, our schools are not currently over-crowded and the district is not facing significant enrollment growth.
The reality is, each new house brings in less than one student, on average, and at about 10,200 enrolled students in 2017 Pickerington Schools actually has about 400 fewer students than in 2011!
Enrollment projections made by the district in June 2016 showed enrollment holding fairly steady into the foreseeable future. And remember, new students also don’t all come in at the same grade level, or to same school.
In short: Pickerington Schools has room for the community to grow!
Although no timeline is set at this time, tax collections would begin in 2018. However, the district could “borrow” money in 2017 based on the anticipated tax revenues and use those funds to begin construction projects prior to 2018.
Of course, a lot of work would have to be done in the meantime, including identifying an architectural firm, doing designs, getting community input, and performing construction.