YOUNGSTOWN School board looks to general fund for renovations

State officials could recommend building a new East Middle School.
YOUNGSTOWN -- The city school board will dip into its general fund to cover added costs in the district's multimillion-dollar building project.
The board is expected to vote today to put about $420,000 annually for five years into a permanent improvement fund to pay the school district's $2 million share of an estimated $10 million in additional improvements to school buildings.
Treasurer Carolyn Funk said the district's budget is healthy enough to handle the transfer from the general fund. The school system recently emerged from fiscal emergency.
Voters approved a tax issue in November 2000 to provide $33.2 million to renovate 12 school buildings and construct four new schools. The Ohio School Facilities Commission will pay $130.2 million.
The $163.5 million cost was based on assessments of each school building's needs that were done by OSFC about four years ago. Since then, architect's have identified additional needs.
Reassessment: So, in August, the school system asked OSFC to reassess some parts of the building plan. Specifically, the district wants to demolish East Middle School and build a new middle school; the original plan called for pumping nearly $13 million in renovations into the existing school building.
The reassessment should be finished next month and could tack $10 million more onto the project's $163.5 million price tag. The school district would pay $2 million and OSFC $8 million.
Relying on interest: The school board initially thought it could use interest from the sale of bonds for the overall project to cover the $2 million share. Although interest can be used, the state requires the school district to identify funds other than interest to cover the added costs. So, the board will set up the permanent improvement fund.
At a meeting of the board's finance committee Monday morning, Funk emphasized that bond interest still can be used for the extra $2 million in costs.
She estimated that about $600,000 would be needed out of the new permanent improvement fund. That would give the district about $1.4 million left for other work that OSFC doesn't cover, such as auditorium seats, she said.
Construction is expected to begin in about a year, starting with construction of the four new schools, three elementary schools and a new high school.

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