Lakota Enrolls in State Funding Program to Kick Start Master Facilities Planning Process

Lakota Enrolls in State Funding Program to Kick Start Master Facilities Planning Process
Posted on 12/11/2019
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At the Dec. 9 school board meeting, the Lakota Board of Education approved a resolution to enroll the district in Ohio’s Expedited Local Partnership Program (ELPP). Hosted by the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC), enrollment is required to gain the OFCC’s support and partnership in ultimately building a master facilities plan that if approved, will be financed in part by the Commission. 

“Part of Lakota’s strategic plan calls for an in-depth assessment of our facilities, with the end goal being to build a plan that protects our district’s most important assets and supports the type of learning that will carry our schools into the future,” said Lakota Superintendent Matthew Miller. 

“In total, Lakota’s 25 buildings are valued at more than $400 million. Furthermore, their average age is 32 years,” added Chief Operating Officer Chris Passarge. “It is critical that we have a firm grasp on what is required in upcoming years to keep our buildings in working order and updated with spaces that align with our long-term vision for teaching and learning at Lakota."

The board’s move to approve the resolution simply places Lakota on a waiting list, among other Ohio districts. Lakota will earn financial credit for any completed work from this point forward that is part of the approved master facilities plan. Once it is Lakota’s turn to collect, the state will reimburse a portion of the facility dollars spent by the district.

The ELPP resolution locks the district into a reimbursement rate of 26 percent - a rate determined by a state calculation of each district’s average three (3) year property valuation per pupil. The reimbursement rate has increased for Lakota by five percent over the last two years.

“In the interest of fiscal responsibility, we cannot look at an update to our facilities master plan and not consider the financial advantages of this program,” said Lakota Treasurer/CFO Jenni Logan. “To put it in simple terms, we have the opportunity for the state to fund more than a quarter of the cost. I believe our taxpayers would love to have this option on the purchase of a new home or much needed renovations. We are doing our due diligence on behalf of our taxpayers.”

A committee, which includes the OFCC, VSWC Architects, an educational visioning expert and district leaders, has been formed to lay the groundwork for the district’s master facilities plan. That group has been gathering detailed data on Lakota’s facilities and thoroughly examining current and projected enrollment to help devise a plan. The committee will be expanding to include student and staff voices, as well as township trustees.

“In the coming months, we are absolutely committed to sharing all the data we are gathering with our community and then getting their input before making any recommendations to the board about the future of Lakota’s facilities,” Miller said. “Those conversations will also include gathering feedback about how we fund the final plan.” 

For Lakota to actually claim the 26 percent reimbursement promised by ELPP, adoption of the resolution is just the first step. The state does require the District to secure the necessary funding within one year of the finalization of the master plan.   

“Without knowing exactly what will be included in our final plan, I am not in a position to share funding options,” Logan said. “In the interim, I am exploring several different possibilities, which may or may not include a bond issue. We will utilize the expertise of our finance committee to help analyze all options available to us.” 

Lakota’s finance committee is comprised of Logan, Miller, district leaders and members of the local business community. 

“We are looking forward to working alongside our community in the coming months to build a sustainable plan that will best serve our students now and into the future,” Miller said. 

The district intends to hold several community forums, while introducing a new electronic engagement tool to gather feedback. Lakota plans to finalize the district’s master facilities plan in late spring 2020.