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Urbana schools consider building

State would pay 61 percent of construction costs.

Urbana City School board members will study what it might cost the district to build new facilities and whether it makes sense in the coming year or so to ask voters to approve such a project.

The district will work with the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission to review several scenarios over the coming year, said Charles Thiel, superintendent for the Urbana City School District. In part, that decision came because the cost the district would have to pay for its share of the project has fallen significantly in recent years, Thiel said.

Just a few years ago, the district would have been required to pay about 57 percent of the cost for any new construction, while the state would pick up the remaining 43 percent. But Thiel said that number has steadily fallen, and the district would now pay 39 percent of the cost for new construction, while the state would pay the remaining 61 percent.

“Once it got to that point, that’s something where I think we needed to begin exploring that option,” Thiel said.

The decision to study potential building projects does not necessarily mean the district will move forward and ask voters to approve new construction, Thiel said.

But Thiel said the district’s current buildings are some of the oldest in the county compared to other districts. New buildings could also be more energy efficient and possibly help cut administrative costs as well.

This fall, the district will ask voters to renew a 3.5-mill permanent improvement levy that generates about $500,000 annually for maintenance of facilities. That levy has been on the books since 1984, Thiel said, and has been approved several times since. If approved again this fall, it would give the district a stable source of revenue for building maintenance moving forward.

Possible construction projects could include construction of a new middle school, a pre-kindergarten to fifth grade building, a new high school, or some combination. The new facilities would be built on about 50 acres of land near the Champaign Family YMCA on Community Drive, land the district purchased several years ago.

Thiel said the district’s finances should be relatively stable for the next few years, and new facilities might help the district save money long-term. For example, a new pre-kindergarten through fifth grade building could allow the district to close older facilities, saving money on energy and administrative costs.

Studying the issue now will allow the district to decide which plan makes the most sense and will provide time to gather input from voters. The district does not have to notify the OFCC of any decision to move ahead with a construction project until next spring, Thiel said.

“These are all the options the board will have to look at and bring to the community,” Thiel said.

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