Ohio schools could forego large-scale construction and renovation projects through the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) in favor of state assistance with smaller upgrades to meet specific needs under a measure the Senate adopted unanimously May 17.
Sens. Randy Gardner (R-Bowling Green) and Lou Terhar (R-Cincinnati) initially proposed SB8 to address technology and security upgrades, but a substitute bill unveiled earlier this week in the Senate Education Committee would allow a broader array of projects, such as repairs or addition of classroom space.
Gardner said the proposal for a one-to-one matching program represents a “new era” of facilities assistance, answering concerns he’d heard from superintendents who did not anticipate ever pursuing full OSFC projects but had other specific construction needs.
“It also, on paper, takes away potentially billions of dollars in obligated funds that would otherwise go to these districts,” Gardner said. He emphasized that the bill does not change eligibility rankings or rules for traditional OSFC projects.
“When your number comes up, and you haven’t participated [in OSFC projects] to date, you have this additional option, which is a smaller amount of state funds, but it’s also a lesser local match,” he said.
Terhar said some districts that are considered wealthier but have older populations are mostly “tapped out” in their ability to pass levies, and this provides them an option. He also noted the need for older school buildings to receive security upgrades, given that the old pattern of putting the school office in the center of the building is no longer useful to addressing security threats.