Until 2025, ACSD is collecting for a 1.19 mill levy that passed about 20 years ago to renovate the elementary and middle school facilities. ACSD Superintendent Tom Gibbs said the new levy will not go into effect until 2025, so taxpayers will not fund both levies simultaneously.
Mill levies collected in Ohio are based on assessed value, not appraised value. A property's assessed value is 35% of the appraised value, and a mill is a one-dollar tax collected for every $1,000 of assessed value.
Under the new levy, property owners will pay about $30 more in property tax for every $100,000 of assessed value in 2025 than in 2024, Gibbs said.
According to Gibbs, the project was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and limited state government funding from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, or OFCC.
"There's a little bit of risk because you don't know how long it's going to take the state to come back and offer the money,” Gibbs said. “We had a pretty good assurance it was going to be within a two-year period of time, then COVID hit, and this state basically turned off the faucet to a lot of state projects.”
The district is currently working with a $6 million budget on hand, which would only be able to repair the roof of the current high school, Gibbs said.
Once construction begins on the new high school, the OFCC can match the money ACSD plans on using to help improve the facilities within the new building.
"So essentially, you go ahead and spend your own money as a district to start the project and then when the state has their money, they come in and give you credit for that work, and apply a (monetary) match for that work," Gibbs said.
Gibbs and Athens High School Principal Chad Springer said they are aware the high school needs modernizing. It was built in 1968 and has an open format, which was popular at the time.
"It was built as an open format school, so originally, the walls didn't go all the way to the ceiling," Gibbs said. “There are stories from the time it opened … of how noisy it was, how distracting it was."
Having an older building has contributed to a need for various updates and renovations. Some recurring issues at Athens High School include HVAC system repairs and a lack of natural lighting, Gibbs said.
These are all things that will be addressed and considered when designing the new high school facility.
"We have that possibility to rethink what education looks like in Athens High School to benefit our students; not just the college-bound, but the career-bound also," Springer said.
Sean Parsons, an ACSD school board member, is confident the levy will pass on the first attempt because the Athens community has historically supported its school system.
"People in our community have continued to support our school district, and they know that education is important, and part of education is curriculum, but it's also operating within facilities,” Parsons said. “They've been gracious to continue to support the school district when there's need."
There is also some support because of how much the district is involved with community outreach and how the new school can benefit the community, Springer said.
"All of our campuses are a hub for community, whether it's a micro area versus a macro," Springer said. "So when you think about Athens High School, there is always something going on here. There's always community outreach."
If the levy does not pass following the general election, the school board must reconvene and make a new plan to present to voters at the next primary or general election.
"After three tries, if it still hasn't passed, then we have to figure out how to maximize that $6 million we have on hand, and the focus is always going to be … (staying) warm, safe dry," Gibbs said.
If the community decides to pass the levy this November, Gibbs said the district hopes to break ground in spring 2025 and have the building open by the fall of 2027 at the earliest, but the timeline is subject to change.