Smyrna referendum approved for new school, renovations and operating expenses

Ben Mace
Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times

Voters in the Smyrna School District on Tuesday approved two proposals for property tax hikes, including one for the construction of a new school, according to unofficial results.

The first part of the referendum, to increase the current operating expenses budget, passed 878-573.

The second part, to issue bonds for a new school and renovations at two schools, passed 930-529.

"We’re so excited," said Smyrna Superintendent Patrik Williams. "We are just amazed that our community would come together during a pandemic that's lasted over a year and show why we are Smyrna-Clayton strong. It’s been a tough year for everyone, but this was the right thing to do and we're so appreciative."

The referendum was proposed after district enrollment grew by 650 students from 2015 to 2020. 

For operating expenses, property taxes will rise $119.85 per year on a home with a market value of $200,000, said district finance director Jerry Gallagher.

That will increase the district’s operating expenses budget by $2.5 million per year for items like employee salaries, educational materials, utility costs and building maintenance. The last property tax increase for operating expenses was in 2014.

The school construction projects include four parts:

1. The purchase of a 15-acre property across from Sunnyside Elementary on Rabbit Chase Lane for a new elementary school. Cost: $900,000. District’s share: $207,000. State’s share: $693,000.

The field across from Sunnyside Elementary on Rabbit Chase Lane is the proposed site for a new elementary school in the Smyrna School District.

2. Construction of a new 600-student elementary school. Cost: $28,773,300. District’s share: $6,617,800. State’s share $22,155,500.

3. Clayton Intermediate School addition and renovations to increase the capacity from 600 students to 1,000 students so the building could be used as a middle school. Additions include a two-story classroom wing and a locker room. The kitchen and cafeteria will be expanded. Cost: $25,624,500. District’s share: $5,893,600. State’s share $19,730,900.

The Smyrna School District’s referendum proposal includes building an addition at Clayton Intermediate School to expand the capacity from 600 students to 1,000 students and eventually use the building as a middle school for sixth to eighth graders.

4. North Smyrna Elementary 12-classroom addition and renovations to increase the capacity from 600 students to 900 students. Major projects include replacing exterior masonry, soffit and fascia; replacing roofing and replacing kitchen equipment, security improvements, and upgrading the heating and cooling system including replacing the boiler and chiller. Cost: $35,610,500. District’s share: $8,190,400. State’s share: $27,420,100.

The Smyrna School District’s referendum includes a plan to renovate North Smyrna Elementary and build an addition to expand the school’s capacity from 600 students to 900 students.

For the construction projects, district taxes will provide 23%, and state funds will cover 77%.

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Even with the approval of the referendum, the debt service part of school property taxes will actually decrease in the first two years. Gallagher said that’s because building projects from previous years are being paid off, and the major parts of the new construction projects won’t have gone to the bond sales yet.

The most that the debt service taxes are projected to increase in one year is $38.21 in fiscal year 2025 on a home with a market value of $200,000. In 2026, another $6.02 increase is projected, but then the debt services taxes are projected to decrease or stay the same every year through the end of the bond repayments for these new construction projects in 2045.

That’s assuming bond sales at 3.5% interest.

Voting was held at Smyrna Elementary School, Smyrna Middle School and the Kenton Ruritan Club. A total of 1,463 ballots were cast, with 1,452 by machine and 11 by absentee ballot. Two machine votes were blank.