What is the OFCC? The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) is a state agency that “oversees capital projects undertaken by state agencies and state-supported institutions of higher education; manages Ohio’s school facility programs which provide support for the construction and renovation of public K-12 schools; and administers the funding for community-based cultural and sports facilities projects.” You can learn more at https://ofcc.ohio.gov/.
Why is Kenton selected to receive state funding? The OFCC provides co-funding for projects at a predetermined rate, based on need. The rate predetermined for Kenton City Schools is 65% of the cost, or approximately $29,600,000. This funding does not cover LFIs (locally funded initiatives). The program uses an equity list based on relative district wealth. The wealth of a district is calculated in valuation per pupil. Other districts in the county (Ada, Hardin Northern, Riverdale, USV, Ridgemont) have already been funded and have finished their buildings. If we do not pass the bond issue, we have the possibility of losing the funding opportunity and there is no guarantee that we would be funded at this high a rate in the future. If we wait, taxpayers would be required to fund the building of a new 7-12 building at 100%.
Where does OFCC get funding for these projects, isn’t this my tax money already? No, the OFCC (previously Ohio School Facilities Commission, merged in 2017 with the OFCC) receives funding in several forms. “Since its inception in 1997, the OSFC has spent nearly $2.8 billion on various school facility projects out of a total of $3.6 billion in appropriations. The three main sources of funding for these projects have been bond proceeds, tobacco settlement payments, and the General Revenue Fund.” Source: https://www.lsc.ohio.gov/documents/budget/125/mainoperating/greenbook/SFC.PDF As stated, these funds are not a use of your existing property taxes and are not included in the funding of the new school.
Is Kenton prepared for the process? Yes, the Kenton City School district has been working prior to and since receiving the phone call from OFCC in February 2021 indicating that the district was to be included in the current round of funding. Many meetings involving school district staff, local leaders, and local community members have been held in order to determine a long-term goal for both the building and the successful passage of a bond or levy issue. The Master Plan has been put together with the help of the firm Garmann/Miller to determine the scope of the project with the POR and LFI needs in mind. With the Master Plan documented, the State of Ohio will acknowledge and approve that the Kenton City School district has performed all required due diligence.
Master Plan, Program of Requirements, and Locally Funded Initiatives – what?
The Master Plan is just that, a master plan that allows the school district to identify the number of classrooms, offices, physical education, cafeteria, support spaces, and more that help identify the overall goals of the project.
The Program of Requirements (POR) is a method of determining the baseline need, in academic terms, based on student enrollment and educational standards as defined by the State of Ohio Board of Education. These are the “NEEDS” as defined by the state. POR items are co-funded by the OFCC and Kenton City School district. (approx. $30M OFCC / $16M KCSD)
Locally Funded Initiatives (LFI) are additional features, specifications, or desires, as determined by the local school district. LFIs can be based on academic, extracurricular, or other needs. These are the “WANTS” as defined by the district. LFIs are funded by the Kenton City School district at 100%.
Where are the plans for the school? There are no architectural plans or renderings to provide at this time. This process is different from the Kenton Elementary School building project, the school district had plans and renderings and were waiting on the State of Ohio to provide the matching funds. For this project, the State of Ohio called indicating that the funds are available. Kenton City Schools now must raise the matching funds through a bond/levy issue. When the bond issue is passed, the process to design and develop the actual architectural plans will begin, followed by a bid process, and ultimately the beginning of the construction process.
What is included in the proposed project to build the new facility? The building project is considered a partnership between OFCC and the local school district. In order to take advantage of the nearly $30,000,000 state share, Kenton must follow the rules of the OFCC in the project. Through the Program of Requirements, it has been determined that there are several Locally Funded Initiatives that will be required to maintain the level of education and enrichment provided at present to our students in grades 7-12. These local initiatives include: increased instructional spaces for career-readiness programs (currently at the former Northwood Elementary School); increased instructional spaces (classrooms); increased support spaces (individual learning needs, therapy needs, clinical spaces, building administration); increased gymnasium & cafeteria square footage; upgraded floors in high traffic areas to Terrazzo stone; standing seam metal roofing materials; a state-of-the-art Performing Arts Center to replace the KMS auditorium; an extension of roadways to match the existing streetscape of Morningside Drive and Silver Street; as well as plans to enhance and maintain a portion of the existing Kenton High School building (“A” Building) for district administration offices, community spaces, gymnasium, and more.
What about the historic KMS Auditorium? Intentional thought and consideration has been put into plans and ideas related to keeping and renovating the KMS Auditorium. As many know, the historic significance of this building is important to all, but the feasibility and cost of renovating this space is great. Many studies were performed to arrive at an estimated probable cost of $9.8 Million dollars to renovate and maintain a portion of KMS, including the auditorium. Despite the desire to maintain an important historical site in Kenton, the space cannot be expanded, nor can it be fully brought to modern design requirements, including ADA design. A brand new, state-of-the-art Performing Arts Center (PAC) could be built at a cost of $5.5 Million dollars. The new PAC would have the same seating capacity (800) as our current auditorium. The probable cost is based on the same size PAC they designed and is being finished for Southwest Licking High School. It would include an orchestra pit with platform to cover the pit, a full fly, catwalk, theatrical control room, a 630 sq.ft. scene shop storage and (2) 190 sq.ft. make-up/dressing rooms, and a 400 sq.ft. drama storage. The PAC also has a large venue projector, sound system, and lighting package. As you can see, the district will save approximately $4.3 Million dollars by building a new PAC. Historic elements found in the current auditorium could be preserved and integrated into the new PAC providing the historical link between the buildings.
How much will the district have to raise to participate and build this school? The Kenton City School district will have to raise approximately $35,000,000 to participate. This figure includes the $16,900,000 for the local share of the POR items and $18,100,000 for the LFIs. The total millage is set to be 6.56 mills. There will be a yes or no vote on this issue. No additional mills are required for a maintenance levy, a maintenance levy was issued in 2011 and will allow the district to continue to maintain all buildings at the existing rate. The bond issue is for 37 years.
What will the levy cost district voters? An approximation of the cost for an individual property owner can be determined but the Hardin County Auditor will determine the actual cost.
Annual Cost Under 65
Annual Cost Over 65
Table 1: Taxable property values and approximate tax costs
What about the existing Middle & High School facilities? There are several reasons that renovation of the current facilities is not an option for the Kenton City School district. In order to have the state as a partner and receive state funds, the district has to build new facilities. The state uses a two-thirds or 66% rule when it evaluates school buildings, through a “needs assessment”. If the cost to renovate the building is more than two-thirds of what it would cost to build a new building, the state would rather the district build new. Our buildings were over two-thirds the cost to renovate as determined by OFCC needs assessment. In this plan, the Kenton Middle School would be demolished and abated for green space or other use. The Kenton High School would be partially demolished, keeping the “A” building section (main entrance, gymnasium, library, cafeteria, locker rooms, band/choir rooms, etc.) and would be renovated to a level that meets ADA requirements, updates mechanical (HVAC) needs to add modern environmental control, fire suppression, and other modern needs to meet a change of use from educational to administrative use for district staff and board offices. OFCC will co-fund portions of the demolition of each building, but does not include any funding for the renovation and desire to maintain the KHS “A” building. This is a locally funded initiative.
When will students be learning in the new building? When will construction be completed? The goal is to have students in the new facility by the 2025-2026 school year. When the bond issue passes in November 2021, it will be approximately one year for the design and bidding process. Once the design and bidding process is complete, we anticipate two to two and a half years of construction time; adding in some time for delays and other concerns, we are looking at opening the school for the 2025-2026 academic year.
Where will the new building be located? The building will be located on the existing land owned by the school district, adjacent to the site of the Kenton Elementary School on the northeast side of Kenton and should be accessible from Silver Street/Morningside Drive/Township Road 114. A true campus approach to learning as well as a contiguous use of land from the school campus, to the athletic buildings, practice fields, baseball field, soccer field, repurposed KHS “A” building, tennis courts, to Robinson Field.
Who oversees the project? The OFCC process dictates how the project is supervised. When the bond issue passes, a timeline will be presented and the school will have to abide by this timeline to ensure timely completion of various tasks, milestones, and goals. Many of the design, architectural, construction, and other building process steps will take place when the bond issue passes. Due diligence will be performed to meet all OFCC requirements to maintain funding requirements.
Will I/we/community have input into the design, layout, and features of the building? All input is valued, from the community at large, KCS staff, KCS administration, and others. When the bond issue passes, community meetings will occur, staff/administration interviews will be conducted, and more forums to ensure that all options are presented and considered. A building advisory council will be established to design and build the new facility. This committee will consist of administrators, staff, support staff, parents, and community members.
Will there be a future bond issue to cover the maintenance expense of the new building? At this time, no additional bond issues are anticipated. A current 0.5 mill permanent improvement levy will be used to cover the maintenance costs. We will be removing the oldest (and most costly) building, KMS. Additionally, a significant portion of KHS will be removed, further reducing our maintenance costs. Finally, Northwood and Oaklief will also be sold/demolished and abated over time, reducing our building maintenance needs. The new combined 7-12 building will be less costly to maintain in the long-term.
We are already paying for a new building, why are you asking for another? At this time, we were approached by OFCC to complete the second segment of the district’s original master plan, to have a campus for Pre-K to grade 12 education at the site located on the north side of Kenton. OFCC works on a basis that when funding is available, the list of schools are reviewed and those districts who have met the needs-based calculations are contacted and awarded the funding opportunity. If the bond issue fails and local funds are not raised to help co-fund the project, there is no guarantee that OFCC will make funds available in the future, thereby leaving the district to fund any major projects at 100%. At this time, the estimated cost of the new building project is $65,000,000.
What will be the bidding process for the project? This is yet to be determined. Kenton City Schools will have to follow all OFCC and State guidelines and will be handled by the architectural firm chosen for the job. There will be meetings and postings for each portion of the building process to meet labor and bid requirements for the State of Ohio.
Is there a floor plan for the new building? Although how the space will be used (number of classrooms, cafeteria, gym, work rooms, offices, common spaces, etc.) has been determined through the Master Plan and POR/LFI process, the actual layout of the building has not. The building advisory council in conjunction with the architects will work together to design the space.
Will the building be air-conditioned? Yes, the new building will be air conditioned, similar to the new Kenton Elementary School building.
Aren’t classes going online? Will we need this building in the future? As we know, throughout the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years, there was never a more clearly defined answer that our students need to be IN SCHOOL to learn at their most effective levels. True, some classes and instructional sources may be provided in an online capacity, but there is no replacement for classroom instructional settings, nor the need for teachers to remain fully involved in the process in a traditional sense. Schools will exist in their current form for years to come.
Will there be staff reductions with a new building? Staff reductions are not planned at this time. Based on enrollment and funding, district staff are required to be maintained at current levels in order to facilitate the education of our current and future students. Enrollment numbers are steady and projected to remain near current levels.
Is it worth it to build now? Materials pricing is higher than ever! Agreed, due to the pandemic, materials pricing is higher than ever, and it was very evident in the estimated price per square foot used in the calculation to determine cost of the new building. We anticipate that prices will come down but not to levels seen pre-pandemic. We feel that now is the time to build because the funds are ready from the State of Ohio and the interest rates to borrow our local share of these funds is very low. We choose to make this investment in our children’s education and our local community at this time, now is the time. This new school campus will be a source of pride and spirit. A great school system attracts industry, influences our property values, and enhances our quality of life. Investing in our facility, in people, and in progress will result in continued success for our children and our community. The students of the Kenton City School District are worth that commitment… today and for years to come!