Butler County Educational Service Center in former Kroger store now paid off

A former Kroger store in Hamilton just transformed again, but in an unseen fashion that will now benefit thousands of area school students.

Officials from the Butler County Educational Service Center (BCESC) just announced their headquarters near the county fairgrounds now has an almost decade early, paid-off mortgage of $2.9 million.

The 44,000-square-foot BCESC headquarters, which was once a Kroger store at 400 North Erie Blvd. is the central hub for dozens of public-school services for Butler County public schools and beyond.

In 2009, BCESC and the Columbus Port Authority entered into a lease purchase agreement to purchase and renovate the recently closed Kroger store to accommodate BCESC’s rapidly expanding programs and staff.

When the building was dedicated in 2010, it served approximately 250 employees.

Today, BCESC employs nearly 800 staff throughout Butler, Hamilton, Preble and Warren counties, said center’s officials.

And by paying off the note nine years ahead of schedule, BCESC will effectively redirect more than $300,000 annually in interest payments to programs and services that support children and schools throughout Southwest Ohio.

Chris Brown, superintendent of the BCESC, said “it is significant in that we can now use those dollars that were going to the mortgage can now be used as investments for the future or to help our current and future programs.”

“It also shows all of our partners that we are good stewards of the money and the partnerships that we have established,” Brown said of the teacher, instructional assistants, Head Start and substitute teachers the center trains and supplies to its member school systems, which include the 10 districts in Butler County.

Center officials said the BCESC has received several Auditor of State Awards from Ohio Auditor Keith Faber’s office in recent years for “its effective and responsible financial practices.”

In addition, BCESC has also received the High Performing ESC designation from the Ohio Department of Education each of the seven years the state rating program has been in place, said officials.

The BCESC building, which has a large conference room and smaller meeting and professional training spaces used by area districts, also shares space with Greater Hamilton Safety Council and the Butler Advantage Health Center, including a free clinic and pharmacy for Butler Health Plan members.

“We now own the building outright and the plan is that this will be our permanent home,” Brown said.

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