LIMA — It’s not likely that someone from the Apollo Career Center will come knocking on your front door asking for your vote.
It’s nothing personal. It’s just that you are one of 65,000 households potentially casting a vote for or against helping to fund a renovation and expansion project.
“We can’t go to 65,000 doors, so we have to be able to have that presence in print material or online and through the media to reach people and talk to them on how we need their support,” Superintendent Judy Wells said.
Voters in 11 school districts will vote on the Apollo levy: Ada, Allen East, Bath, Bluffton, Columbus Grove, Elida, Hardin Northern, Perry, Shawnee, Spencerville and Wapakoneta. They span four counties, with Wapakoneta being the largest and Hardin Northern the smallest.
Vantage is in the same boat, asking voters in 11 districts to vote for a renewal operating levy. All of Putnam and Paulding counties will see the issue on their ballots, as will voters in Kalida, Ottoville, Fort Jennings, Continental and Parkway school districts.
“It is a huge challenge to be a career center and try to do any kind of levy, whether a renewal or new money,” said Superintendent Staci Kaufman.
Vantage will ask voters for a five-year, 0.8 mill renewal. It has been around since 1999 and raises $721,684 a year for operations. It will cost an owner of a $100,000 home $20.06 a year. The same homeowner living in an Apollo district would pay $30.62. The large area and number of residents allow the schools to ask for less money.
Vantage staff is busy being visible and getting the message out. The funds are vital to district operations and are not connected to the ongoing building project, Kaufman said, adding that the school has been frugal with its money.
Along with some yard signs, the school relies on a lot of word of mouth.
“We depend on the relationships we have built with people in all of our communities to help us send the message,” Kaufman said. “If not for keeping as close ties as possible, we would have no visibility in a lot of our outlying communities.”
Apollo supporters are talking to clubs and groups, and having a strong presence on social media. School boards of the 11 districts have passed resolutions of support and graduates have been giving testimonials.
“Our board has been really great,” Wells added. “Each has taken ownership of their community.”
The Apollo levy request includes three parts, all adding up to 1 mill. The state will pay 67 percent, almost $23 million, of the Ohio School Facilities Commission project, leaving the school needing to come up with $11.64 million.
The school is also asking for an additional $18.4 million for adult education and high school career technical education that the state won’t pay for. The total voter share is $30 million. The bond is for 30 years. The school also needs a 10-year 0.2 mill permanent-improvement request. The majority is mandatory for state projects.
“We have been talking about the plan for a number of years but because of the economy, we waited,” said Treasurer Greg Bukowski. “Interests rates are very low now. It is a prime time for us.”
The project will add 82,000 additional square feet and connect the adult education and high school buildings. It will address space concerns, technology needs and infrastructure issues in the 36-year-old building.
Along with additional science labs and enlarged classrooms, the high school would get a media center addition, 150-seat lecture hall and more career technology space. The current auto building will be converted to adult education space with additional classrooms. An auto and carpentry area will be added to the high school. The school’s customer service programs, including the restaurant and cosmetology lab open to the public, will be expanded and located at the front of the building.
The school is in desperate need for additional welding space, Wells said, because local industry needs skilled welders. The adult program will take over the current high school welding lab, which will be relocated. Industry looks forward to having adult welding space that can be used during the day.
The success stories show how important the adult program is, Bukowski said. He adds that local high schools would have to offer more without Apollo.
“We are the ultimate shared services with 11 schools,” he said. “If we were not here, then you would have to have welding labs in each school or cosmetology or health career labs in each school.”
If the levy doesn’t pass, Apollo could go back on in the spring, but OSFC money would be lost after next summer.
Apollo officials realize many have no direct connection to Apollo. They want them to see that the school is deeply embedded in the community.
“I think they don’t realize the people they run into on a daily basis that probably trained at Apollo,” Wells said. “Like the nurse, the guy who fixes your car, cuts your hair, builds your house. They probably trained at Apollo. If they are there to help you in a medical or fire emergency, I bet they were trained at Apollo.”
Apollo Career Center