Editor’s note: This story was updated at 3:30 p.m. on Monday, March 2, to clarify that the Cuyahoga Falls City School District will, at some point, receive $33.2 million in state funding to help pay for its building project.
CUYAHOGA FALLS — The city school district is in line to receive state funding for its building project, and officials hope they will soon get word that the money will be released in July.
Even if the money is forthcoming, construction will not start for about two years, according to the superintendent.
District voters in November 2019 approved a 9.83-mill tax issue which includes a 5.33-mill, 36-year bond issue that would generate about $80.6 million for a building project that has a total price tag of $113.8 million. The state would pay the remaining $33.2 million of the cost.
The key project the district hopes to finance through the bond issue is a new, 370,000-square-foot school building that would house the district’s sixth through 12th graders at the site where Bolich Middle School and Newberry Elementary School now stand. Other projects that the district is looking to do with the bond issue money are: a new 5,000-seat outdoor stadium for football, track and soccer; and a new 1,400-seat performing arts center, along with a separate 200-seat Black Box Theater.
Cuyahoga Falls City School District Superintendent Dr. Todd Nichols said the district should find out in early March whether it will receive money in July from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) to help pay for the 6-12 school building project, as well as the demolition of the Bolich and Newberry buildings. He noted that the state money cannot be used for the stadium, performing arts center or theater.
Nichols emphasized that the district will receive the $33.2 million in state money at some point, noting it is simply a question of "when" the money will be released, not "if" it will be released. If the district does not receive the state money in July, Nichols said the next opportunity for the release of funds would be in January 2021.
Nichols said ThenDesign Architecture (TDA) sent out requests for proposals (RFP) for a land survey, a geotechnical study and the first phase of an environmental study for the Bolich/Newberry site. Proposals were returned to TDA on Feb. 21. Nichols said TDA has made recommendations which will appear on the board’s agenda March 4.
The land survey will cost anywhere from $12,500 to $16,500, while the price ranges on the geotechnical study and first phase of the environmental study are $8,000 to $12,500, and $2,500 to $5,000, respectively.
Nichols said if the district is notified that it is receiving the state money this summer, "a lot of things take place very quickly." Those activities are:
• The board of education will receive the authorizing resolution from OFCC on July 9. The board would then be asked to approve an authorizing resolution on July 15;
• The district would work on establishing a new credit rating with Moody’s or Standard and Poor’s;
• A new credit rating would likely be issued during the week of Aug. 24; and
• The district would then look at bond issue pricing Sept. 9 and then close on the bond issue Sept. 23.
"Our credit rating will drive a lot of the pricing," said Nichols. "…The higher the credit rating, the lower the interest rates. The lower the interest rates, the less burden there is on the taxpayer over the life of the issue."
The board would work with OFCC to select an architect of record and a construction manager by Sept. 1. Nichols said the design phase would then last until about March 2022, and actual construction "would likely begin in the spring of 2022."
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.