Smyrna School District to hold referendum

SMYRNA — Smyrna School District will ask voters for their support renovating an elementary school when the district goes to the polls in February for a major capital referendum.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Feb. 22 at Smyrna Elementary School, Ruritan Club of Kenton and Smyrna Middle School.

The district is seeking $667,300 of local funding to renovate mechanical systems and replace the roof at North Smyrna Elementary School.

Homes with a market value of $200,000 would see no tax change in the first year, a decrease of $11 in the second year, a decrease of $7.40 in the third and fourth years and no change in the fifth year, said Jerry Gallagher, finance director for the district.

Mr. Gallagher added that this is because the district is paying off other bonds, which can show a negative number in tax rates for the new bond sale for taxpayers.

“We’re looking to raise $50,000 a year — a very modest proposal in terms of overall dollars,” he said. “It’s not a significant increase on rates.”

With raising funds about $50,000 each year, Mr. Gallagher added that it would value less than $3 a year for taxpayers with homes with a market value of $200,000.

The last major capital referendum for the district was in 2014, which also supported renovations to North Smyrna Elementary School, as well as other facilities in the district.

This referendum would be addressing additional projects that surfaced in the last building needs assessment, he said. The district conducts a building needs assessment every five to 10 years, Mr. Gallagher said.

“In the district, what I find remarkable working in Smyrna compared to another district I worked in for 19 years and in talking with other districts throughout the state, we do an exceptional job extending the life of our facilities and equipment,” said Superintendent Patrik Williams at a January school board meeting. “Even still, there comes a time when replacements must be made.”

The total funding needed for the project is $2.9 million, with the state taking on a brunt of the ticket at $2.3 million, or 77 percent.

Should the referendum be approved by voters in February, work would likely begin in the summer 2021 to have the least impact on instruction time, Mr. Gallagher said.

“We actually, as a district, submitted much more extensive request through the state to address increasing enrollment as well as building system needs, mechanical and roofing and the like,” he said. “Unfortunately this year, with the significant demand that the state has, we were only approved for a portion of it.”

Mr. Gallagher said that the district plans to resubmitting its proposal to the state next year for additional capital support. In addition to renovations and upgrades, he said the district also is looking at the need for expansion, which are “larger ticket items down the road,” he said.

With increasing enrollment, the district’s master plan is looking toward expanding existing schools, building a new school and addressing improvements for aging facilities.

This year, the district grew 191 students, Mr. Gallagher said. From 2015 to 2019, the district increased by 649 students.

“We’re starting to see that growth, that upward growth trajectory that we saw about eight years ago,” he said.

In a public presentation last week, Mr. Williams explained that in 2004, the district put together a 10-year plan to capture “improvements, new schools, construction and renovation projects” for a population of about 3,300 students. It was projected that in 10 years, that number would double.

Due to the recession, that growth plateaued. Now, though, the district is approaching 6,700 students, he said.

Mr. Williams said the district foresees growth at the intermediate level. The plan would see Clayton Elementary School shifting into a middle school — it was built to eventually evolve into that role, he said — but that doesn’t eliminate the need for an eventual second intermediate school.