State funding for Franklin school construction delayed at least 6 years

The Franklin school board is considering plans for new facilities but have been advised by the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission that funding may not be available until 2027. The district had previously been told it would be eligible for the state funding in 2020 or 2021. The popularity of the program and many districts statewide have been passing bond issues to cover local construction costs. Franklin Junior High School was built about 100 years ago. FILE PHOTO
The Franklin school board is considering plans for new facilities but have been advised by the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission that funding may not be available until 2027. The district had previously been told it would be eligible for the state funding in 2020 or 2021. The popularity of the program and many districts statewide have been passing bond issues to cover local construction costs. Franklin Junior High School was built about 100 years ago. FILE PHOTO

Franklin school officials have been told that state funding for school construction in the district has been pushed back to much later than originally anticipated.

Franklin school officials had been told the district would be eligible for the state funding in 2020 or 2021 for new or renovated buildings. But this week, Charlie Jahnigen, vice president of architecture for Cincinnati-based Steed Hammond Paul, said that officials with the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission indicated funding for the district has been delayed to 2027.

After an April 3 meeting with OFCC officials, Jahnigen and Franklin school officials were told that the funding through the Classroom Facilities Assistance Program, based on district need, would be unavailable. The program determines an amount the state would fund to renovate or replace buildings in a school district. It also required the school district to pass a bond issue within 13 months for the local share of the construction costs.

Carlisle Local Schools already started construction of a new K-12 building through CFAP funding.

“This was a surprise to us,” Jahnigen said. “There has been so much success across the state with this program and the state said they have to slow down the financial distributions.”

He said a large number of school districts approved levies for new construction in the May and November 2018 elections.

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Jahnigen said there are school districts in Ohio that have passed levies to raise the local portions that will be affected by the delay. He said it was unknown whether state legislators would be adding more funding for school construction projects in the new state biennium budget that goes into effect on July 1.

“We’re used to getting curve balls from the state,” said board President Lori Raleigh.

However, the district could participate in the Expedited Local Partnership Program in which a building project could be done in segments with the local portion being used up front to begin or do smaller projects with the state providing its share at a later date when CFAP funding becomes available.

Jahnigen said several area districts such as Middletown, Lebanon, Mason, Talawanda and Little Miami have used that program to construct new buildings. He also said that the Monroe School District also is considering that option.

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Franklin school officials have been looking at reducing the number of school buildings from eight to four — a high school, a junior high school and two elementary schools. It estimated the costs of that project at $120 million with the state providing 56 percent of the funding or about $67.2 million.

While the delay in its building plans is problematic, waiting has actually helped the Franklin school district as the state will be providing additional funding. Five years ago, had the Franklin school board moved forward, the district would have had to cover 75 percent of the construction costs.

Superintendent Michael Sander said the ELPP program would allow the district to meet urgent needs and move forward on the building project. The district’s oldest building, Franklin Junior High School, was built nearly 100 years ago.

Sander said if the board should move forward and implement the ELPP option, Franklin voters could see a ballot request as early as November 2020. He said the board could decide to move forward at its May 20 meeting.

He said district officials would be meeting with community stakeholders beginning in August to gather additional input for the new buildings.