AIA Bulletin

Success Rate for New School Funding ‘Steep Decline,’ Says Election Watcher

Voters approved less than one third of all school funding proposals on Tuesday’s ballot, though the 31.5 percent passage rate was actually an improvement over last year’s special election. Several school districts in two of Ohio’s largest counties succeeded in passing levies by a wide margin, while a pair of new funding packages in Summit County failed.Of 35 total funding proposals in the form of levies, bonds, income taxes, or some combination of the three, local voters approved 11 packages. Franklin County saw $7.7 million in new funding for Groveport Madison Local Schools, where residents passed a 9.96 mill continuing levy with over 70 percent of the vote. The margin was even greater in Brecksville-Broadview Heights City School District in Cuyahoga County, where voters renewed a three-year combination levy for permanent improvements and operating expenses — 1 mill and 5.8 mills, respectively — with nearly 74 percent of the vote.The latest available information from the Ohio School Boards Association Wednesday added the following wins:– Bethel Local Schools, Miami County: 2 mill renewal over five years for permanent improvements, with 57 percent of the vote; new “replacement” funding of 7 mills over five years for operating expenses, with 52 percent of the vote.
– Buckeye Local Schools, Medina County: new emergency funding of 7.9 mills over five years for operating expenses, with nearly 63 percent of the vote.
– Clear Fork Valley Local Schools, Richland County: new income tax of 1 percent over five years for operating expenses, with less than 52 percent of the vote.
– Dalton Local Schools, Wayne County: 2 mill renewal levy over five years for permanent improvements, with nearly 56 percent of the vote.
– Lake Local Schools, Wood County, new funding of 6.75 mills over three years for operating expenses, with 52 percent of the vote.
– Margaretta Local Schools, Erie County: 1.5 mill renewal levy over five years for permanent improvements, with nearly 54 percent of the vote.That compares to an August 2011 passage rate of roughly 26 percent. Buckeye Valley Local School District in Delaware County failed to pass a combination of new income taxes and bonds — .25 percent over five years and 3.5 mills over 28 years, respectively — pulling barely 28 percent of the vote. The package would have cost taxpayers $30 million.Edon Northwest Local Schools in Williams County and Jackson Center Local Schools in Shelby County also failed to pass new income taxes. Jackson Center failed by a single vote, according to OSBA, setting up a possible recount, while Edon Northwest drew a respectable 38 percent in favor of the combination income tax and levy.“The one vote loss (223 to222) in Jackson Center Local Schools in Shelby County was disheartening,” said Executive Director Jerry Rampelt of Support Ohio Schools Research and Education Foundation.All three school construction issues on the ballot also failed.“August school levies traditionally have a low passage rate,” Support Ohio Schools said in a statement, noting the 20.8 percent rate for “additional” operating funds is below the historical average of 35 percent while nearly double the August 2011 rate of 10.5 percent.  “It is a steep decline, however, when compared to the 46 percent passage rate of additional operating issues in March of 2012.”Support Ohio Schools said it considers a school levy as new or additional if it generates more revenue and does not renew an existing levy. It also noted reported results are the latest available and not official results certified by the Ohio Secretary of State.

$10 billion for school rebuilding covers half the need

More than 15 years after its creation, the Ohio School Facilities Commission has invested nearly $10 billion in state and local funds to replace and repair school buildings once rated the worst in the nation.

“As it stands, we’re about half done,” said Richard Hickman, executive director of the commission.

“If we are able to fund about 25 districts each year and those districts are able to secure their local share to move forward with construction, we think it will take until 2025.”

Wrought from the 1997 court ruling finding Ohio’s system of funding public schools unconstitutional, the massive construction program was created to aid all 614 school districts and 49 joint vocational districts. Starting with the poorest districts, the state has been working through a list of projects, with work beginning after local voters approve levies to provide matching funds.

Overall, nearly 1,000 schools have been built or renovated since the commission was created in 1997. Funds have been offered to about 450 districts, Hickman said, with about 100 unable so far to secure local matching funds.

When the commission was approved by state lawmakers, the work ahead may have seemed insurmountable. A 1995 General Accounting Office survey of 10,000 school buildings nationwide singled out Ohio’s as being in the worst condition.

State officials predicted all work on Ohio’s schools would be completed by 2012.

It was an ambitious timeline and, like most construction projects, prone to delay, most recently because of the economic recession.

The poorest districts had to come up with relatively small amounts of matching funds, but as wealthier districts began to qualify and the local contribution grew, the economy stalled and voters became less willing to approve tax increases for school construction.

But Hickman said the program appears to be picking up steam again.

Last month, the commission approved $1.1 billion in school construction projects for the current fiscal year, nearly double the value of projects approved last year. The 27 districts selected for funding plan to construct 43 new buildings and renovate nine existing ones, with the state contribution averaging 44 percent.

“We’ve got six who already have their funding (approved) and four more lined up to go to the ballot in August and November,” Hickman said. “Last year at this time, only four districts had their funding.”

Among the districts ready to start building projects are South-Western and Lancaster schools, where voters earlier this year approved money for new buildings.

In South-Western, ground will be broken next year for 13 new elementary schools, a new high school and renovations to two elementary schools. The state will provide $120 million of the $268 million for the project, with local taxpayers picking up the rest.

Five new elementary schools will be built in Lancaster, with the state covering about one-third of the $88 million project.

Among the new projects also is the commission’s first STEM school, the Dayton Regional STEM school, where an old store will be renovated into classrooms.

ccandisky@dispatch.com

School Facilities Commission Approves First Project under Construction Reform

The Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) Thursday gave approval to the first construction contract that uses new construction reform rules passed in HB153 (Amstutz), the biennial budget.

Southern Local School District in Meigs County gets the distinction of being the first project under OSFC’s Classroom Facilities Assistance Program to use an alternative project delivery option. The project includes a new high school addition to the existing Southern Elementary School.

The project was one of 88 construction trade contracts that were approved at Thursday’s meeting. The panel unanimously adopted more than $90 million in contracts that will go towards school construction and renovation work in 22 school districts.

Ohio Department of Administrative Services Director Bob Blair, a member of the commission, asked what kind of savings the district will see by using a single prime contractor. Jon Walden, manager of contracts and compliance, said that it will take time for the district to know the full cost savings because it is the first time for such a contract.

OSFC Executive Director Richard Hickman said in a statement released later that more than a dozen other school districts are considering using one or more of the alternative construction delivery methods adopted in HB153.

In other action, the panel approved seven school districts for participation in the OSFC’s energy conservation savings program, also known as the “HB264 program.” The districts include Auburn Career Center in Lake County; Blanchester Local in Clinton County; Dalton Local in Wayne County; Lakewood Local in Licking County; Lorain County Joint Vocational District in Lorain County; Noble Local in Noble County; and Tecumseh Local in Clark County.

Mike Mendenhall, deputy chief of projects, said staff had originally planned to present two projects, but five more were added after additional technical reviews were completed. Some of the projects include guarantees from the energy consultant that Mendenhall said assures that the savings promised will be realized. If not, the energy consultant must make up the difference. In answer to a question to Blair, he said there is an additional cost for the guarantee, but it’s very minimal and goes toward monitoring costs. He told Rep. Dan Ramos (D-Lorain) that the cost of providing the guarantee can be built into the project.

The OSFC approved changes to its FY13 project agreement templates that reflect changes in law as part of the Mid- Biennium Review Bills, including construction reform, maintenance program, prorated half mill maintenance, and abandoned facilities changes. The last one states that a district has three options for abandoning a facility: convert it to a non-education use, transfer or sell the property, or demolish all or a portion of the facility.

The commission also honored Jerry Kasai, OSFC’s chief legal counsel, who is retiring after 30 years of work for the state. He also served with the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, the Department of Administrative Services, the attorney general’s office, and two different stints at OSFC.

Hickman said Kasai played a significant and key role in development and implementation of policies and procedures at OSFC. 

School Facilities 2012 Design Manual Includes Wireless

The Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) Thursday approved changes to its design manual that includes allowing for wireless Internet connections in classrooms. The changes to the 2012 manual were made based upon 118 suggestions, Franklin Brown of OSFC told members of the commission.

Brown said previously, OSFC’s design manual required a wired connection for classrooms, but changes to technology has caused the commission to pull the trigger and allow for wireless.  “We feel that wireless technology has come of age,” he said, noting that many school districts have already began implementing wireless in their buildings for students and staff to use. 

Where previous technology could lag, he said current technology allows up to 25 students working on their devices at once to utilize one wireless hub.  He also noted that an analysis of the cost of wireless found that once the cost of furniture, equipment and space for a wired connection was factored in, the cost of wireless is about equal.

Among the other changes to the manual:

– Removed the use of unit ventilators as a type of air condition. Brown said the units are like those you find in hotels and said there are a number of reasons for the removal, including the noise;

– Heights of gymnasiums changed to limit the trusses above the floor;

– Requires certification of air barrier systems by a national agency. Brown said the systems were added in last year’s update, and now they will be inspected and certified.

– Wood windows added back in to the design manual. Brown said they were removed a few years ago because of a failure in one project, but it has been determined that failure was because of a design issue.

– Limits gymnasium lighting to fluorescent lights. Brown said they found those lights are more efficient than HID lights and they come on instantaneous instead of warming up over a few minutes.

– Polished concrete was added as an approved flooring.

– Includes construction reform requirements adopted in biennial budget bill HB153 (Amstutz).

– Gives designers the ability to reduce square footage of buildings when they still meet program requirements.

– Creates summary check sheets to determine how much parking a site can have before it must solely use local funding.

– Updates the student learning environment planning process and adds planning process templates.

 

Brown also said construction costs have not changed this year from last except for a 2.62 percent increase in inflation.


In other action, the commission approved three settlements on lawsuits related to construction projects, including one in the Wellston City School district, where construction manager BBL-Maescher’s insurer agreed to pay $1.44 million to settle a suit that claimed “breaches of the professional standard of care and contractual breaches in the administration of the project.”

OSFC Chief Legal Counsel Jerry Kasai told the commission that there were things in the design of the project “that don’t meet any standard, let alone any professional standard.”

The commission adopted 77 construction contracts worth more than $85 million for projects in 20 school districts. It also heard an update on the auditor of state’s FY11 auditor of state, which included no major findings but had four internal control comments, including concerns about a delay in the reconciliation in monthly expenditure reports, a request form approval, a missing signature on a change order and the verification of payments to school districts. Two of those concerns were attributed to a vacancy on the staff that has since been filled.

Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit News

 An amendment sponsored by Rep. J Kirk Schuring passed by both the House and the Senate was signed last week by Governor Kasich, this will streamline the Ohio historic tax credit process for some historic properties by allowing both a qualified lessee or fee simple owner structure to be eligible for Ohio historic tax credits. This change may reduce legal cost on some projects. Read the bill HERE (scroll down to section 149.311)  Last week the Ohio Department of Development awarded $35.8 million in Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credits to 18 owners planning to rehabilitate 44 historic buildings in 10 communities across the state. If you’d like to review the list click HERE

July 2012 issue of SAO eNews

 

The July issue of the SAO newsletter is now available at http://das.ohio.gov/Divisions/GeneralServices/StateArchitectsOffice/SAOeNews.aspx.  

 Inside this issue:

 

Click here to download a PDF version of SAO eNews.

Historic Tax Credits Mean Jobs

The Historic Tax Credit Coalition and Rutgers University yesterday released their annual study on the economic impa ct of the federal historic tax credit (HTC). Researchers found that between fiscal years (FYs) 1978 and 2011 the HTC has generated more than 2.2 million jobs and $83.7 billion in income. In FY 2011 alone, the HTC generated 64,000 jobs and $2.7 billion in income. The study was conducted by researchers at the Rutgers University Center for Urban Policy Research and commissioned by the Historic Tax Credit Coalition, a public policy advocacy organization.

Read more about the report from Historic Tax Credit Coalition Chairman John Leith-Tetrault in his monthly History and the Hill column in the July issue of the subscriber_id=angela.williams@ketteringoh.org&;url=www.novoco.com%2Fmarketing%2Fshopping_product_detail.m%3Fid%3D346″ target=_self>Novogradac Journal of Tax Credits. The report will also be a hot topic at the subscriber_id=angela.williams@ketteringoh.org&;url=www.novoco.com%2Fevents%2Fother%2Fkentucky%2Findex.php” target=_self>National Historic Tax Credit Conference, September 6-7, in Louisville, Ky.

School Facilities Commission Approves FY13 Projects

The Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) Thursday approved funding for 26 school districts to begin construction projects in FY13 contingent on those districts’ meeting their local share of funding.

The approval also included funding for the first STEM school in the state, the Dayton Regional STEM School. It is the first school to focus on science, technology, engineering and math that is not a part of a school district to receive OSFC funding.

OSFC Executive Director Richard Hickman called the Dayton Regional STEM School a “unique project” that is taking advantage of an empty Value City store. He said the school has already obtained funding to renovate part of the building and has begun classes there, and Thursday’s funding will go towards renovating more of the building.

In total, OSFC approved more than $1.1 billion in construction work and will be matched by more than $622 million in local funding. The amount approved for the fiscal year is more than double the amount spent by the commission last year. Hickman attributed the extra funding to the General Assembly’s being more generous in the most recent capital bill as well as other factors.

The average state share of the 27 projects is 43.8 percent and includes seven segmented projects that take advantage of recent law changes to reduce the minimum local share. The construction will include 43 new buildings and nine renovations of current buildings, and will lead to 83 current buildings’ being taken out of service. Of those, 81 will be demolished, and OSFC staff said the other two will be utilized by Swanton Local School District as administrative offices and for other uses.

Ohio Department of Administrative Services Director Bob Blair, a member of the OSFC, asked if the commission is close to moving from new construction projects to maintenance on projects built since the OSFC was formed.

Hickman responded that maintenance is always concern, but added there is still much work to be done on the backlog of school districts needing funding. He said an evaluation conducted a year ago found that there are still more than 300 school districts OSFC has yet to serve. He said if they fund 25 districts every year and all 25 secure local funding, it will take until 2025 to have reached every district.

“There is a significant amount of work to do,” Hickman told members of the commission. “That’s why we’re pleased with the support of this administration in terms of providing capital funding.”

Hickman also told the commission that the staff plans to come back in January and make mid-year recommendations on funding for districts to keep the program building. That funding will come from money already approved for districts that could not meet their local share in this fiscal year and are not likely to secure local funding soon.

After the meeting, Hickman said the commission did something similar last January when a district that had previously lapsed in terms of securing local funding was able to finally do so. Rather than force that district to wait until it came up again, the commission was able move funding to bring the district up the list.

He said there has been a concern that funds will be tied up waiting for districts to get funding rather than continuing construction. Noting the number of districts that need funding, he said it is the commission’s intent to move forward with building projects.

Projects that could be moved up the list include those for districts with lapsed funding, districts that have exceptional needs and secure local funding before they are eligible for OSFC funds, or districts that are authorized by the General Assembly, Hickman said. He cited a college preparatory boarding school in Cincinnati as one example, noting that it would have likely received funding in this round but details were still being worked out.

The commission also approved the “Next 10” list of districts that will be eligible for funding next year. David Chovan of OSFC said that because lapsed districts go to the head of the list, the list is the same as last year as those districts have not yet secured local funding.

Ohio Residential Building Code Gets Energy Update

 

Ohio’s newly adopted residential building code will require new homes to be more energy-efficient, come with carbon-monoxide detectors and be tested for air leaks.

The code was adopted by the Ohio Department of Commerce’s Board of Building Standards after passing final procedural hurdles this month. It’s scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1.

 

The new rules are estimated to add between $1,100 and $1,200 to the cost of an 1,800-square-foot two-story home. 

 

“Hopefully, the homeowner might notice these changes on their utility bills,” said Columbus homebuilder, CraigTuckerman, who served on the code’s advisory committee.

 

A 2009 U.S. Department of Energy study of a similar proposed code change in Boston found that homeowners could save about $230 a year in energy costs with the new guidelines

Tuckerman said many Ohio builders, especially custom builders, already meet or exceed most provisions of the new code.

Among other code requirements, carbon-monoxide detectors must be installed outside each bedroom in a home that uses gas or propane or includes an attached garage. Homes must meet an air-tightness standard that includes a blower-door test. And at least 75 percent of light bulbs in new homes must be high-efficiency, such as compact fluorescent bulbs.

While it won’t radically change the way homes are constructed, the code had sparked considerable debate since its introduction more than three years ago.

Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club favored the tougher energy requirements, while Ohio homebuilders argued the new code would excessively boost the cost of a new home.

The Ohio Home Builders Association opposed the initial proposal. But at the urging of builders, the code now includes a compromise provision to provide contractors two ways to meet the tougher energy requirements. They can either follow the International Code Council guidelines or follow an alternative set of guidelines designed by builders to achieve the same energy efficiency.

“I think they came up with a code that works,” Vincent Squillace, executive vice president of the Ohio Home Builders Association, told the newspaper. “We came up with an equivalent code that’s more strict but is about $2,000 cheaper per home to implement than the original code.”

Debbie Ohler, staff engineer for the Ohio Board of Building Standards, said the code also recognizes new materials and methods of construction. The board will administer the code.

“It’s definitely an improvement,” Ohler told the newspaper. “It also incorporates requirements that provide for safer homes, but at the same time, it incorporates more stringent energy requirements, which should save homeowners money.”

OSFC Approves $108 Million In Contracts, Energy Conservation Projects

The Ohio School Facilities Commission recently approved $108 million for construction trade contracts in 29 school districts.

The funding brings the commission’s contract approvals to more than $502 million since the start of the calendar year.

Among the schools receiving funding are Akron Public, Eaton Community City, Green Local, and Otsego Local school districts as well as the Mid-East Career and Technology Center, according to the OSFC.

“These 104 trade contracts represent a continuing investment in Ohio’s schools,” OSFC Executive Director Richard Hickman said in a release. “Ohio’s ongoing school construction and renovation program is not only delivering high quality educational facilities, but it is also providing good jobs in lean economic times.”

Since it was established in 1997, OSFC has disbursed more than $9.5 billion in state funding for school construction and renovation.

Energy Conservation: The OSFC separately approved three districts to participate in the Energy Conservation program at anticipated annual savings of more than $210,000.

Projects in the Campbell City (Mahoning County), South Euclid Lyndhurst City (Cuyahoga County), and Bloom Carroll Local (Fairfield County) school districts will be completed under the program.

“Reducing energy costs and consumption is a major goal for school districts,” Executive Director Hickman said. “The $210,000 in annual savings generated through the HB264 program will allow these three districts to upgrade their facilities and become more energy efficient. Furthermore, the energy savings will cover the cost of the financing used to fund the projects.”

The Campbell City project will involve upgrades to lighting and building controls and other energy improvements in two buildings. The district estimates $76,884 in annual energy and operational savings.

The South Euclid Lyndhurst City project will include lighting upgrades to eight buildings and other improvements with an estimated annual and operational savings of $73,800.

The Bloom Carroll Local project includes upgrades to lighting and building controls in three buildings and boiler replacements. The district expects $50,926 in annual savings.

Ohio Adds First Two Platinum LEED Schools, Exceeds $500 Million in OSFC Funding for FY12

One Ohio school is among an elite group nationally to be certified “platinum” by the Leadership in Energy and

Environmental Design (LEED) program, the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) said Thursday. The recently

completed London Middle School is the first school in Ohio to receive the U.S. Green Building Council’s top designation,

followed in recent weeks by LEED platinum certification of Taft Information Technology High School in Cincinnati Public

Schools.

 

OSFC also used its monthly meeting to announced three Ohio school districts approved for its Energy Conservation Program

under 116-HB264.

 

Supported by $13.3 million in OSFC funding, the London Middle School project includes a geothermal heating and cooling

system, a 71.2 kilowatt solar panel system, extensive natural lighting, and 20 acres of restored prairie grass. Thirty-seven

percent of the building materials were regional, and 25 percent were made from recycled material. Efficiency measures

yield a 40 percent reduction in water usage and 42 percent energy savings, including 15 percent of the school’s electrical

needs from solar cells.

 

“This project was completed within budget, with the full complement of education components incorporated into the

building, and it was able to achieve this elite LEED rating,” OSFC Director Richard Hickman said. “It was within our average

cost per square foot guidelines and without any outside grants, locally funded initiatives or outside funding sources.”

Energy Conservation projects include Campbell City Schools in Mahoning County, South Euclid Lyndhurst City Schools in

Cuyahoga County, and Bloom Carroll Local Schools in Fairfield County, which together expect to save more than $210,000

annually from energy improvements.

 

In other business, the commission approved more than $108 million in new construction contracts in 29 school districts.

“These 104 trade contracts represent a continuing investment in Ohio’s schools. Ohio’s ongoing school construction and

renovation program is not only delivering high quality educational facilities, but it is also providing good jobs in lean

economic times,” Hickman said.

 

OSFC has approved more than $502 million for school construction and renovation in 2012 and $9.5 billion in contracts

since its inception in 1997.

Breach of Contract Suit Statute to be Reduced

Today, someone wishing to sue a business in Ohio for violating the terms of a written contract has 15 years from the alleged breach to do so. This long time period, or statute of limitations, makes Ohio uncompetitive among the states with only Kentucky having a comparable statute of limitations. Two bills are currently pending in the legislature that will reduce Ohio’s extended statute of limitations.

Lawsuits are decided more fairly and efficiently the more quickly they are tried. The ridiculously long 15-year statute of limitations puts Ohio businesses at a great disadvantage if they are sued. Reducing it will enable an employer to defend a lawsuit more effectively, since the involved personnel will have fresher memories and company records will be more easily accessible. It also means businesses will no longer be burdened with keeping all relevant records of written contracts going back as far as 15 years.

Enacted in 1803, Ohio’s current 15-year statute of limitations for written contracts is a byproduct of an era when communications took days or even weeks for a party to give notice of a breach of contract. Given today’s technological advances, Ohio’s antiquated law for written contracts is overdue for modernization. In fact, Ohio already has a six year statute of limitations for oral contracts. Changing the law for written contracts will standardize these two statutes and also bring Ohio in line with the other states.

House Bill 170 passed the House by an overwhelming margin and will reduce the current statute of limitations to six years. Senate Bill 224, which unanimously passed the Senate this week, will reduce it to eight years.