JEROMESVILLE -- Hillsdale Local School District’s timeline to build a new K-12 school building currently remains unhindered, despite the recent news around its potential funding from Rover Pipeline.
Upon receiving the Ohio Department of Taxation’s valuation of its tax dollars owed to school districts across the state, the company with approximately 20 miles of duel pipeline and a natural gas compressor station in Hillsdale Local School District appealed this number, asking for a uniform 50 percent reduction across the state to its 2019 tax assessment.
According to Superintendent Steve Dickerson, the district has conservatively moved forward with the schematic design process of the proposed facility, and is currently calculating the cost of the project based on that design.
The schematic design and cost estimate will then be reevaluated once the district knows the amount they'll receive from Rover. Otherwise, all other work will be put on hold until the Rover figure is known.
“We haven’t had to stop anything yet. Everything we’re doing right now isn't costing more money than what we have in the bank,” Dickerson said. “My hope and my goal (is to open the new building) by the 2022-23 school year. Right now, I haven't seen anything to have to push that back.”
He was surprised by the valuation the Ohio Department of Taxation gave for the Rover Pipeline. Compared to his expectations, he said, it was extremely high -- more than double what the district had promoted in its November 2019 renewal levies literature of $5 million dollars annually.
“We never anticipated this very large number,” Superintendent Steve Dickerson said. “I was thinking in my heart it would come in over $6 million. I was purposefully conservative in the figure we put out there for the levies. I never envisioned it coming in so much higher.”
If Rover wins its appeal and pays only 50 percent of the Ohio Department of Taxation’s proposed amount, Dickerson said the district will still have the money it needs to build the schools.
He’s anticipated a small percentage of depreciation in the Rover funding every year for 20 years to pay off a 20-year loan for the proposed building. Though the funding should be coming in for as long as 30 years, he said, he knows Rover Pipeline has contracts in place for at least 20 years.
Still, the situation does cause some concern for Dickerson. In fact, the worse case scenario he can imagine is Rover Pipeline paying the Ohio Department of Taxations initial valuation in its entirety, as if the appeal is later approved, the funding would be adjusted in an unpredictable fashion.
“What could hinder us a little is if Rover pays it all… because then there will be adjustments we can’t anticipate,” Dickerson said. “I want Rover to pay what the tax should be. Then, the state won't go in and lower it.”
In that scenario, Rover could be fined a 10 percent penalty for not paying the initial assessment, but from Dickerson’s perspective, it’d give the district the most “piece of mind.”
The district’s proposed K-12 building is to be built at the current location of the Hillsdale High School football field. It would replace the more than 90-year-old elementary school and the more than 50-year-old middle and high school buildings.
“All of them are functional, but we're getting to the point where we'd have to put a bunch of money into them to meet modern needs,” Dickerson said. “We’re adapting safety to old buildings right now instead of starting with a building that has safety in mind first.”