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West-Liberty Salem seeks combination levy

West Liberty-Salem schools will ask voters for the second time to help pay for major renovations to its campus with a combination levy that would raise about $11 million.

If approved, the combination levy would mean voters would pay a 0.25 percent income tax combined with a 3.62-mill bond issue to help cover renovations and additions to the existing school building. Some of the improvements would include replacing the roof, improving the heating and air conditioning system, increasing classroom space and improving security.

The Aug. 6 special election will be the last chance the district has to save about $1 million toward the project, said Kraig Hissong, superintendent for the district.

Currently, the state would pick up the cost of 71 percent of the project, or about $22.6 million, at a rate that was locked in last July. However, that rate expires after August, and afterward the state would only pick up about 68 percent of the cost, Hissong said. The total project is expected to cost about $33 million.

“It’s a big opportunity for the district and we really need it,” Hissong said.

Last November, voters rejected a proposed 7.55-mill levy that would have covered the cost of the project. Voters had raised concerns that the previous levy placed a burden on property owners in the district.

This time, Hissong said the district sought input from the local agricultural community and other voters, and decided to reduce the overall cost of the project by about $3.5 million. They did so by reducing the cost of Locally Funded Initiatives, portions of the project that would not be covered by the state. Hissong said that included eliminating a plan to build a second gym.

Overall, he said an average voter in the school district would pay an additional $254 a year between property and income taxes. About $140 would come from the property tax side, while $114 would come from the income tax side, for example.

The current school building was completed in 1988, and needs several upgrades, including a new roof, Hissong said. Classrooms in the facility are about 700 square feet, while the state minimum is 900 square feet. The project, if approved, would add about 28,000 square feet of space to the building.

The district had about 900 students when the school was first built, but has since grown to about 1,200 students, according to information from the district.

Completing all the renovations at once would be cheaper than tackling one project at a time, Hissong said.

“We think that overall we’ve got a better project this time,” Hissong said.

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