ASHLAND -- The Ashland County-West Holmes Career Center will be getting a revenue boost from the Rover pipeline, according to the latest five-year financial forecast put together by school treasurer Julie Smith.
However, the Career Center Board of Education also was warned as it approved the forecast at its regular meeting November 21 that the increase might not be as permanent as it appears.
Smith told the board that the latest public utility property valuation update from the Ohio Department of Taxation projects “a 163 percent valuation increase over 2019 due to the Rover pipeline and the Wayne County compressor station located in our school district being assessed at full value, as well as some electric utility valuation increase."
“That’s a nice bump in that line item,” she said.
Smith continued to say the projections assume Rover’s lump sum annual payments each fiscal year based on the fact Rover paid the tax bill in one lump sum payment in 2019, which could change because of the increased value. She also cautioned that the extra property tax could affect the state’s share of education funding, although recent action by the Ohio Legislature figures for unrestricted state aid and career tech funding are “frozen solid” for the current biennial budget.
“We know it will be this for 2020 and 2021 but for 2022 and beyond I have no idea,” she said.
Although property valuations will not be finalized until at least next month, Smith said she put the expected revenue in the current five-year forecast instead of the May submission because the Career Center currently has many programming and facility issues on the table for which officials need to start planning.
In the area of expenses, Smith is projecting relatively moderate step and base rate pay increases for the five year period, although bargaining unit negotiations will start in the spring. She also is expecting a three percent increase in health insurance costs in 2020 and five percent annually after that.
“Most of the rest of the line items are pretty status quo,” Smith added.
The Career Center board took action on one of the facility issues, authorizing school officials to negotiate a contract with SHP, a Columbus-based architectural firm, for design professional services for possible district facility renovations. A total of four firms submitted proposals when officials advertised a request for quotes in September.
Smith said the administration and the board’s building and grounds committee scored the proposals and held interviews with the two finalists.
“SHP has a lot of career tech experience, a nice portfolio as well as some good ideas,” she said. “They know we’re all under the gun as far as a timeline and they want to help us make the right decision and the right moves even if it might mean taking a step back here and there.”
Ohio Facilities Construction Commission recently put the Career Center at the top of the list of career technical schools for possible state funding if officials want to make improvements to the 47-year-old building. The building and grounds committee met in September this year and reviewed an updated state study that was conducted to determine what needs to be done to improve the main building and other facilities after learning that the state funding share had been increased from 22 percent to 51 percent.
Smith said the SHP will do a building walk through in early December and that the board should have a contract for consideration at its December meeting. Ashland City School Board representative Rick Ewing cautioned the board about moving too fast.
“We’re being pushed by the OFCC to be on a particular time frame which pushes us toward a bond issue in November (2020) and that’s very tight considering the scope and extent of what we might be considering,” Ewing said. “Can they get us to that point? Absolutely, but is it more important that we do it fast or do it right? I think we know the answer to that.”
The Career Center Board also heard the details of a proposed 10-year, 50 percent Community Reinvestment Act property tax abatement for Main Street Holdings of Ashland for a building at 88 East Main Street in Ashland. The company is looking to spend $460,000 to renovate the building and construct a 2,000 square foot addition to convert the former auto parts store into a restaurant that will employ 10 to 15 people.
Smith said the presentation was for information only because the abatement is below the level that requires board approval.
The board also was updated on the status of a contract for a rooftop solar panel array that is getting ready to expire. Officials said the contract is up in September 2020 and can be cancelled with a six month notice.
Smith told the board the company has the option of taking the equipment or walking away and leaving the panels. She noted that the school is using about 95 kilowatt hours of electricity per month from the array, based upon the most recent billing, which represents only four percent of total electric use.