A whopping $14.2 million hand-out from the state could let Amherst build a new elementary school — if voters agree to match it, and then some.
With a brief vote Monday, the board of education agreed to accept a long-awaited huge lump sum from the Ohio School Facilities Commission.
Aand in doing so, school officials put a $17.5 million bond issue on the November ballot.
If voters agree, it won’t raise taxes. But residents will continue to pay $5.57 per month for every $100,000 worth of property they own for another 12 years.
“Our buildings are becoming very expensive to maintain, especially our elementary schools,” said district superintendent Steven Sayers, pushing a plan to close the current Powers and Harris Elementaries and build anew on South Lake Street.
The new construction would be on or close to the Harris site but will take the Powers moniker. It will be a PK-3 building, shifting grade around at Nord and AJHS.
State money would also be used to make improvements at Nord and Steele High School.
Sayers said the plan would make school operations much more efficient, saving at least $500,000 per year.
The district has 13 months to get voters on board and secure funding for its portion of the project, else OSFC money could disappear.
Board of education president Rex Engle credited the efforts of Sayers and treasurer Barbara Donohue with paving the way for a new building. He pointed to a turn-around in operating cash balances and returns on investments as proof of their positive work.
“Not only have we been able to stabilize ourselves financially, but we’ve been able to push forward our educational program,” Sayers said, predicting several more years without cash flow woes.
He said even during the Great Recession, during which foreclosures rained down financial troubles for the school system and its residents, staff were able to expand services. Teachers expanded electives and started an orchestra, while administrators mapped a plan for Steele media center and south gym lobby upgrades.
Teachers and other workers agreed to benefit concessions, savings millions in savings over the last couple of years, Sayers said. That money was reallocated to expand opportunities for students.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.