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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Johnson Elementary Renovation Project Is a Go

Robert D. Johnson Elementary is slated for renovation thanks to restored funding. FTM file.
Funding for a major project to renovate Robert D. Johnson Elementary has been restored thanks to the recent override of the governor’s budget veto by the state legislature.

It had been what school officials called a "real roller coaster ride" as money for the project was secured and then lost during the budget process. The override returned money for Johnson’s renovations, one of only two school construction projects that received funding this budget cycle.

Board Chair Jeff Beach shared the news at the April meeting of the Fort Thomas Independent School Board. The legislature awarded $7.6 million for the project but also granted an extension that would allow the district to borrow an additional $5.5 million.

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The extension was on what is known as equalization, funding that matches what a district has raised. The equalization was set to end soon so money could not be borrowed against it. With the extension, the district has the ability to borrow.

The initial cost of the project is projected to be $22 million. The district, with strong help from the Fort Thomas School Foundation, anticipates available funds up to $18.3 at this point, more than enough, officials say, to get started.

At the meeting, Board Member Karen Allen explained, "We didn’t have all the money we needed when we started Moyer [renovations]. Let’s be clear on that. We were able to proceed because of the state grant, and there is nothing to prevent us from starting this project knowing we have a few years to get to that next phase."

Superintendent Karen Cheser reminded those present that the process to get to this point was a long one and would not have happened without the support of the community. "We are very thankful to our Foundation members who worked very hard to build relationships with people to help us advocate…Our legislators really came through… and some of the other relationships with legislators we made were very critical when that final budget was being developed."

Allen said community support was key. The district was able to raise the funds with taxpayer dollars that will be matched by equalization. This, along with the funds raised by the Foundation, demonstrates how the community continues to step up in support of the schools.

All the work contacting legislators, building relationships and standing up for Johnson at the legislative forum in February was a strategy that worked, said Beach. "We’re going to build Johnson now. We have a lot of work to do in a short amount of time, but we’ll have meetings this week and will bring you something as soon as we can."

RELATED: A New Johnson Elementary School: What You Need to Know

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