A $21 million bond issue to pay for the new Athens High School is in the works

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — Athens residents may see a bump in their property taxes as the Athens City School District plans to float a new $21 million bond issue this year.

Athens High School is seen in in The Plains, Ohio, on Tuesday, June 22, 2021. [Joseph Scheller | WOUB]
Athens High School is seen in in The Plains, Ohio, on Tuesday, June 22, 2021. [Joseph Scheller | WOUB]
The bond issue, which would be on the November ballot, is needed to finally begin construction on the new Athens High School. The school district thought it would have enough money to build the new school but is now coming up short.

“Unfortunately, a new high school is an expensive endeavor, it’s about a $56-57 million project,” Athens City School District Superintendent Tom Gibbs said. “We have about 6 million on hand, so we will have to go back to voters in November to ask for support in order to complete the master plan.”

In 2018 the school district entered into a cost-sharing agreement with the state to fund a master plan for the district’s buildings. Under the agreement, the district would have to front most of the costs before the state’s contribution.

The district acquired around $60 million in 2018 through a bond issue to bankroll the plan, which originally included the high school among several other now-completed construction and renovation projects.

The money raised in 2018 should have been enough to cover the costs of the new high school and the other projects, but things aren’t working out as planned.

Gibbs said the reason the high school’s cost is higher than originally estimated in the 2018 plan is mainly because of inflation. However, another element is the district’s student population has dropped over the past few years, which means it will be receiving less funding under the state’s formula.

In 2018, the district found it would be cheaper to rebuild the high school than to renovate it. This is why the high school will be totally rebuilt while Athens Middle School, for example, was only renovated.

The new building will include more space for drama classes and the performing arts, with the gymnasium being around the same size as the current one.

Gibbs also said there will be three times more space for the school’s woodworking program, which he said is the school’s most popular elective.

Should things go as planned and the bond issue goes through later this year, Gibbs predicts construction for the new school could begin as soon as 2025.

Editors note: This story has been updated to replace the term tax levy or levy with the term bond issue.