NORTH ROYALTON – On Oct. 1, City Council members lent their unanimous support to the schools by passing a resolution encouraging residents to consider Issue 85, the school’s facility bond issue.
This $49.8 million bond issue will appear on the Nov. 5 ballot and seeks to accomplish four objectives – increase building safety and security, improve the physical needs of the facilities, enhance the curriculum and educational experience for students and allow for the renovation of the elementary buildings for the return of kindergarten and preschool back to their home schools.
The November election will mark the issue’s second attempt at passage. It failed last November by a margin of less than 5 percent. The school district, listening to residents’ concerns, pared down the issue from a $54-million plan, which originally included a bus garage and additional locker rooms, to the mere essentials.
Issue 85 will cost the owner of a $100,000 home approximately $7.12 per month. The median value of a North Royalton home is $180,000, so the average resident would expect to pay a little over $12 monthly should this pass.
City and school officials stress that this current bond issue is for facility costs only. No money from this bond issue will go to salaries or operational expenses.
As new buildings age over time, routine maintenance and attention is a normal part of the upkeep process, Council President Larry Antoskiewicz said. Much of this bond issue will be used to address just that.
“It’s like anything. You have new buildings and eventually they age and need repair and updating. Obviously, the needs of the city have changed, with the growth of the city. We want to be able to maintain our high level of education,” he said. “You always hate to go to the voters for any kind of a levy, but the school district is trying to do this in the best way they possibly can.”
Ward 1 Councilman John Nickell, who works as technology director for the North Royalton City School District, said having lived in the trenches, he can attest to the need.
“The schools are so much the heart of the community and draw people in,” he said. “The district has really reduced this down from a $140-million concept that included a new high school to the amount where it’s just doing the essentials – ventilation, heating and air, roofing, security. Residents said they didn’t want a new high school, and the district really listened.”
Ward 3 Councilman Dan Langshaw, a former school board member, said the state has been whittling away at funding for both schools and municipalities, so the district has no other choice but to come before voters. The district is in urgent need, Langshaw said, as these issues aren’t going away and will only worsen over time.
“Most people don’t understand the financial side of things, but the state has not helped public education nor has it helped local government. It’s cut funding for both of us. Unfortunately, that local burden is passed along to the local residents,” he said. “It’s a tough decision when it comes to people’s checkbooks, but education is so important. It’s a positive thing for this community to support this bond issue. When I was on the board, I had the chance to walk on the roof, visit the classrooms. This is an urgent need. It’s not something that is going to go away. We have to get to work to make the repairs that are needed and to maintain the excellent school district we have.”
Ward 4 Councilman Paul Marnecheck agrees that these issues aren’t going away. They will have to be addressed sooner or later. In his opinion, sooner is better with interest rates extremely low.
“This isn’t a union contract or salaries, this is brick and mortar. We all know buildings need maintenance, technology needs upgrading. Right now money is cheap. I am comfortable that the lion’s share of this will be going to the actual project and not banks, fees and interest. I’m not unsympathetic to individuals on fixed incomes, but these projects are unavoidable. They will need to be done. We should do them at a time when costs are low,” he said.
Superintendent Greg Gurka said the need is indeed great. Examples include visitors to the school buildings being able to gain access to the schools’ hallways before reaching the main office which is extremely problematic, the science labs built in the ‘50s cannot support today’s biology curriculum and the buildings’ technology infrastructure cannot support the digital learning new core curriculum mandates. Other issues include the band cannot practice as a whole in the band room due to size constraints, roofs are leaking, electrical and HVAC systems are not energy efficient and the district is leasing space for preschool and kindergarten because there just isn’t room.
“Just like homeowners have to upgrade and replace things, we have to too,” he said.
Mayor Bob Stefanik said Issue 85 runs deeper than just preserving buildings, he said it purposes to preserve students’ educational foundation.
“As a parent of three children who attended the North Royalton school system from K-12, the opportunities they had, the experiences they gained here in this district gave them a great head start and helped prepare them for the transition to college and the job market. One of my reasons and I know other families’ reasons for moving to North Royalton was the outstanding school system that continues on today. In order to prepare our children for tomorrow, we need a strong, viable school system today.”
Council and the mayor’s support for Issue 85 is something Gurka said he greatly appreciates.
“I’m overjoyed at the support we get from the mayor and city council. The schools and city enjoy a great relationship, which is critical to the overall success of the community. And, I’m not just saying it, we really do have a great relationship with the city and work together for the common good.”