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Facility Planning » Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Stevenson Elementary and K-12 Athletic Complex Planning

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Stevenson Elementary and K-12 Athletic Complex Planning

  1. What is included in the proposed bond issue for November, 2024?

The Board of Education voted to place a $69.5 million bond issue on the November, 2024 ballot, which includes the following:

  • $52.2 million for the construction of a new Stevenson Elementary School with innovative, collaborative and flexible spaces to best support learning; and
  • $17.3 million for Phase 1 and 2 improvements to the district’s K-12 Athletic Complex including replacing home and visitor bleachers, and building new fully accessible restrooms, locker rooms, and concession facilities.   

  1. What process did the district go through to evaluate the facilities and formulate a plan?

In 2022, the district conducted a master planning process for the Athletic Complex with the help of a committee of community members, coaches, Board of Education members, and administrators.  The committee analyzed data, assessed the current facilities, and evaluated the future needs of the district, ultimately recommending a plan that provides updated and accessible facilities including locker rooms, restrooms, concessions, storage, and athletic competition spaces that prioritize equal access for male and female athletes.


In 2023, the district underwent a similar master planning process for Stevenson Elementary with a committee of teachers, community members, administrators, and Board of Education members.  The committee focused on a facility program that would provide innovative and flexible learning spaces to support 21st Century learning, ultimately recommending a new Stevenson Elementary based on inherent limitations in the existing 1922 structure.


Following the completion of both Master Planning processes, the district assembled a Facilities Planning  Committee to evaluate both Master Plans and make a recommendation to the Board of Education.  

  1. What was the role of the Facilities Planning Committee?

The Facilities Planning Committee, composed of 19 community members with diverse professional backgrounds, was convened to review the Stevenson Elementary and Athletic Complex Master Plans, analyze estimated project costs, and provide a recommendation to the Board of Education on the scope of the project.  


The Committee ultimately recommended moving forward with Stevenson Elementary and Phase 1 and 2 of the Athletic Complex improvements.  The recommendation included deferring Phase 3 of the Athletic Complex in anticipation of future public utility tax revenue that will likely be available to fund that phase of the project. 

  1. Who was on the Facilities Planning Committee?

District leaders convened a Facilities Planning Committee of 19 members, seeking diverse representation from the Grandview Heights and Marble Cliff community in terms of professional background, geographical location, and experience in the school district.  The following members served on the committee:

  • Eric Bode
  • Kristy Etling
  • Debra Hoelzle
  • Holly Hunt
  • Anna Kalnow
  • Molly Lang
  • Melissa Mayer
  • Julie McTeague
  • Greg Moody
  • Kulo Moyo
  • Molly Phillips
  • Bonani Ray-Brady
  • Zach Rosenstock
  • David Schmied
  • Jennifer Voit
  • Molly Wassmuth
  • Travis Williamson
  • Jimmy Woodland
  • Nathan Young

  1. Why are Stevenson Elementary and the Athletic Complex being combined into one proposed project?

With the completion of the 4th -12th grade facilities project, Stevenson Elementary and the Athletic Complex remain the two district facilities that have not been addressed in the overall Facilities Master Plan.  Accordingly, the Board is now considering improvements to these facilities.

  1. Why is the district considering rebuilding Stevenson Elementary now when the recommendation was made in 2018 to exclude Stevenson Elementary?

In 2018, the Financial Advisory Committee of community members made the recommendation to the Board to limit the project scope to the 4th -12th grade facilities after considering many factors including operating levy needs and affordability to the community.  This Committee made it clear at that time that a comprehensive rebuild of Stevenson Elementary would still need to be revisited at a later date. The committee’s report can be accessed here.

  1. What is the current condition of Stevenson Elementary School?

Stevenson Elementary was built in 1922 and, due to its age, presents continual maintenance challenges including leaking roofs, technology limitations, and mechanical systems that have exceeded their useful life.  Proceeds from the district’s Permanent Improvement levy are not sufficient to address the ongoing needs of the building.  In addition, critical spaces including classrooms, cafeteria, and gym are undersized to meet the needs of our students today.  A long-term facility improvement plan would ensure Stevenson Elementary students and staff have facilities that support 21st century learning for generations to come.

  1. Why does the plan include building a new Stevenson Elementary instead of renovating the existing Stevenson Elementary building?

The Stevenson Elementary Master Planning Committee evaluated options for a renovation of the existing Stevenson Elementary and a newly constructed Stevenson Elementary.  Due in part to the inherent design limitations in the current building (e.g. the inability to reconfigure space based on the existing load-bearing wall structure), the committee unanimously recommended a new Stevenson Elementary.  The committee believes this would be the best solution to meet the current and future educational needs of the district, with 21st century learning spaces and adequate square footage.

  1. Why not just address “deferred maintenance” at Stevenson Elementary rather than building a new Stevenson Elementary?

In 2016, the Board of Education partnered with Harrison Planning Group to perform a facility assessment of each of the district’s school facilities.  The assessment report for Stevenson Elementary identified $6.6 million of “deferred maintenance” costs, representing the amount of money that would have been needed to bring major facility systems such as heating, electrical, plumbing, and windows up to current standards.  That cost, adjusted for inflationary increases, would be approximately $13.3 million in 2026, the projected midpoint of construction.


While investing $13.3 million in Stevenson Elementary would update the critical facility systems, it would not address undersized classrooms, gymnasium, and other critical spaces in the building.  It would also mean instructional delivery would continue to occur in a facility that was built for teaching and learning more than 100 years ago.  


Building a new Stevenson Elementary would provide our youngest students with educational spaces designed for 21st century learning including seamless access to technology and flexible spaces that can easily be moved to enhance collaboration, creativity, and problem solving skills. Spaces would be similar in form and function to the new Larson Middle School and the renovated Grandview Heights High School.

  1. Why did the district make improvements to Stevenson Elementary recently if the plan was to demolish the building?

At the recommendation of the community-led Financial Advisory Committee, the scope of the 2018 bond levy included building a new Larson Middle School, comprehensively renovating Grandview Heights High School, and making safety, security, and accessibility improvements to Stevenson Elementary.  


During the summer of 2020, the district invested approximately $275,000 in safety, security, and accessibility upgrades at Stevenson Elementary, including installation of a secure vestibule and an updated main entrance that is fully handicapped accessible.  Although funding was not available to address the entire facility, these improvements were prioritized as critically necessary since Stevenson Elementary would continue to remain in use for a period of time.

  1. What is included in Phase 3 of the Athletic Complex Master Plan, and why is it not included in the current proposed project?

The Athletic Complex Phase 3 improvements include new baseball field facilities, new parking along North Star and Fairview Avenues, and a new entry plaza on West Third Avenue.


A new public utility substation is underway on Fifth Avenue in Marble Cliff and, based on preliminary estimates, the district believes the anticipated tax revenue from this project would likely be sufficient to finance future Phase 3 improvements to the Athletic Complex.

  1. Does Grandview Heights Schools have funds to cover the cost of the proposed facilities project?

The district has a Permanent Improvement (PI) levy earmarked for facilities and equipment approved by voters in November, 2010, which generates approximately $560,000 annually. This funding is not enough to cover the cost of a facility improvement project.

 

A bond levy, which raises money to finance major capital projects, would be needed to fund a new Stevenson Elementary School and improvements to the Athletic Complex.  

  1. What about the Grandview Yard funds the district receives?  Can that money be used toward a facility project?

Grandview Yard revenue comprises about 20% of the school district’s annual operating revenue, a critical piece of the overall budget.  As development has continued, the annual growth on this revenue has helped the school district keep up with inflationary increases in expenses, growth that the district doesn’t realize on property tax revenue due to the inflationary limitations of House Bill 920.  The Grandview Yard revenue growth has kept the district from needing additional operating levy funds from taxpayers in recent years.

  1. Would Grandview Heights Schools be eligible for funding through the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC)?

Ohio public schools are eligible to apply for OFCC funds for facility projects.  However, there is a direct correlation between the wealth of the district and the percent of funding the district would be eligible to receive.  The maximum state contribution Grandview Heights Schools would likely be eligible for is 5%.  Because OFCC does not fund athletic facilities and because there would likely be additional costs incurred to comply with OFCC regulations, it would not be financially advantageous to pursue OFCC funding for this project.

  1. How did the Board determine the financing plan?

The Board of Education and administration have worked closely with legal and financial professionals to evaluate possible financing options and have determined the typical and most cost-efficient option to fund a facility project is through a bond levy.

  1. How much would this bond levy cost taxpayers?

The proposed project would be approximately 6.95 mills, equal to $243 per $100,000 of property valuation annually.

  1. What happens to this cost as property values increase in the future?  Will my tax continue to increase?

No.  Bond levies are established to collect the amount of money needed to pay the principal and interest payments on the bonds.  As property values increase in the future, the tax of 6.95 mills will be reduced to generate the same amount as originally planned.  In other words, the $243 per $100,000 would decrease as property values increase.

  1. Are there any limitations on the size of a potential facility project?

Yes.  Ohio Law limits the amount of debt a school district may issue, based on a complex formula that takes into consideration property valuation trends and existing outstanding debt.  Grandview Heights Schools’ debt ceiling is approximately $80.5 million, although this amount is a moving target as property values change and existing debt is paid off.

  1. What was the district’s rating when bonds were issued for the Middle and High School project? 

The school district presented to S&P Global Ratings, an international bond ratings firm, in advance of selling bonds in 2019 which resulted in a ratings upgrade to AA+.  In general, the higher the rating, the lower the interest cost on the bond issue would be.  District officials are currently working with bond counsel and municipal advisors to evaluate whether an additional upgrade to the highest rating of AAA may be possible.

  1. When do you expect Grandview Heights Schools will need to ask for additional operating levy funds?

The Board of Education and administration work very hard to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars and make every effort to stretch levy dollars as far as possible.  The most recent operating levy request was 1 mill in 2018, which is about $26 per $100,000 of property valuation today.


Based on the current 5 year financial forecast, the district does not expect to need additional operating funds at least through 2028, the end of that forecasted period.  However, if circumstances change (e.g., a legislative change in the property tax system), that outlook could possibly change. 

  1. What was the cost of the 4th-12th grade facilities project that was recently completed?

The overall project budget was about $58.2 million, which included contributions from several donors and interest earnings on the bond proceeds.  The project was completed under budget with nearly $300,000 remaining in the bank.  Those remaining funds were transferred to the district’s Permanent Improvement levy fund to be used towards the current track replacement project.  The bond levy that funded this project currently costs taxpayers 3.25 mills ($114 per $100,000 of property valuation).

  1. Why is the anticipated cost to taxpayers more than the recently completed 4th-12th grade facility project?

In 2018, as part of the planning for the 4th-12th grade facility project, the Board of Education worked with the City of Grandview Heights and Nationwide Realty Investors (NRI) to renegotiate the Grandview Yard school compensation agreement which increased the annual revenue to the school district.

 

The increased revenue allowed the district to reduce the tax increase for the project by half.  The Board of Education has continued to fulfill this promise to the community setting aside these funds each year and lowering the amount collected from taxpayers. While this unique opportunity was available to help fund this project, there are no excess funds remaining to subsidize the current proposed facility project.

  1. How were the project costs “vetted” to keep costs down?

Planning Process & Square Footage

As part of the planning process, the Master Planning Committee provided feedback on the spaces that are needed in a new Stevenson Elementary.  Following the initial exercise, the committee reconvened to look at how efficiencies could be gained by making spaces “work harder.”  In other words, the goal was to achieve maximum utilization of the building footprint and limit spaces from “sitting empty” for long periods of time during the school day. This is a normal step in the “programming” phase as there is a direct correlation between square footage and total project cost.  

 

A sizable amount of square footage was reduced through several iterative reviews of the plan, while maintaining the educational functionality of the building.  Examples of efficiencies include smaller offices, conference rooms, and collaboration space outside the classrooms. The proposed new Stevenson Elementary is programmed for 5 classrooms per grade to allow for anticipated growth as well as to maintain teacher/student ratios commensurate with expectations in Grandview Heights Schools.  

 

Construction Estimates

Concord Addis, a nationally recognized construction cost estimation firm, developed the cost estimates and benchmarked the projections against actual construction bids being submitted in another similar school construction project in central Ohio.  The costs reflect the unprecedented level of construction inflation since COVID and the modest inflationary growth expected between now and the time construction would be expected to occur.  The costs also reflect the strong demand for construction services in Central Ohio which has driven up construction costs. 

 

To gain further assurance of the accuracy of the cost estimates, the Board and district administration worked with another construction firm on an independent review and validation.  Through this process, the district was able to reduce some inflationary factors and further cut overall project costs.  So, although the inflationary increase is still high, we are confident the estimates accurately reflect market conditions.

  1. What is the anticipated construction timeline if a bond levy passes in November, 2024?

The Board of Education and Administration would engage community, staff and other stakeholders in an iterative process over the next 12-15 months to design facilities that would best meet the needs and expectations of the Grandview Heights Schools community.  Construction on a new Stevenson Elementary would be expected to occur during the 2026-2027 school year, and would be completed for the start of the 2027-2028 school year.  While not yet established, district officials would work collaboratively with community stakeholders and design professionals on an Athletic Complex design and construction schedule that causes the least disruption to student athletes and other facility users.

  1. Where would Stevenson Elementary students attend school during construction?

Stevenson Elementary students and staff would attend school during the 2026-2027 school year in modular classrooms located on the lawn just south of the new Larson Middle School.  These facilities are equipped with all typical public utilities including restrooms.  It is anticipated that Stevenson Elementary students and staff would also share some of the Larson Middle School facilities during that school year, including the cafeteria, gym, and media center.  While this would be disruptive for the 2026-2027 school year, it would be the best option to ensure the safety of all students and staff during construction.

  1. How would learning look differently in a new Stevenson Elementary School?

A new Stevenson Elementary School would have learning spaces designed to enhance 21st century learning including seamless access to technology and flexible spaces that can easily be moved to enhance collaboration, creativity, and problem solving skills. Spaces would be similar in form and function to the new Larson Middle School and the renovated Grandview Heights High School.

  1. Has the district considered the potential for enrollment growth in determining the appropriate size for a new Stevenson Elementary?

Yes.  The district works with FutureThink, a company that specializes in school district enrollment projections, to update and monitor anticipated enrollment on a regular basis.  The most recent projections, completed in April, 2023, predict a gradual increase of about 130 students district-wide over the next ten years.  This information was taken into consideration in planning the appropriate size of a new Stevenson Elementary.

  1. Why is this project being pursued now?  Could it wait another 5-10 years?

Stevenson Elementary is over 100 years old.  Building components including the roof and major mechanical systems are beyond their useful life and present ongoing financial challenges.  In addition, educational spaces designed in 1922 are undersized and do not support 21st century learning with innovative, flexible and collaborative learning spaces needed today.  With each passing year, the cost of the proposed project increases.  Accordingly, the Board of Education believes now is the time to address this project. 

  1. When will a final decision be made whether to pursue a bond levy in November, 2024 for this project?

The Board of Education unanimously passed the Resolution to Proceed on June 26, 2024, the second and final step in the process of placing a bond levy on the ballot.  The first step, while not binding, was a Resolution of Necessity, approved by the Board of Education at its May 8, 2024 meeting.

  1. How does the estimated cost of this proposed bond levy compare with other recent school levy requests in central Ohio?

In the last 4 years, the following Franklin County school district levy requests have been on the ballot:

 

School District

 

Date

 

Levy Type

 

Millage

Cost Per $100,000 of Valuation

Dublin

 

November, 2023

Operating/ Bond

9.89

$346

Groveport Madison

 

November, 2023

Operating

6.68

$234

Columbus

November, 2023

Operating/

Permanent Improvement

7.70

 

$270

Canal Winchester

November, 2023

Operating

10.2

 

$357

Worthington

November, 2022

Bond/

Permanent Improvement

6.46

$226

Upper Arlington

 

November, 2022

Operating

6.9

$242

New Albany

 

November, 2022

Permanent Improvement

1.75

$61

Reynoldsburg

November, 2021

Bond/

Permanent Improvement

4.91

$172

Gahanna-Jefferson

November, 2020

Operating/ Bond/

Permanent Improvement

10.69

$374

  1. How does Grandview Heights Schools’ property taxes compare to other districts in Franklin County?

Grandview Heights and Marble Cliff residents pay $1,091 of school tax per $100,000 of property valuation, the 6th lowest in Franklin County.  Taxes per $100,000 of valuation for each school district are as follows:

Graph of Taxes

*Denotes a district that also has an income tax levy on the ballot.

  1. I have more questions.  Who can I contact for additional information?

Please feel free to contact Superintendent Andy Culp [email protected] 614-485-4015), or Treasurer Beth Collier [email protected] 614-485-4021) with any questions.