Akron Public Schools will consolidate the district’s 300 administrative employees from two century-old buildings into one newer one at 10 N. Main St. in a move that could save more than $1 million each year.

The Akron School Board unanimously approved purchase of the building for $9.1 million and a bond issuance of $10 million during a special school board meeting Wednesday.

The building is occupied by SummaCare, a health plan that is relocating its headquarters and more than 300 employees to the East End business district in March.

Ryan Pendleton, the school district treasurer, said he wanted to hold the meeting as soon as possible to start moving forward with the purchase process. He said he wants to close the deal by April 1.

“A lot of work starts tomorrow,” Pendleton said after the board approved the purchase.

The district has been eyeing the property since officials took a tour of it in August with representatives from property owner Signet LLC and representatives from the city, which owns the adjacent parking lot.

Now that the board has approved the proposal, Pendleton said the next step is to present the plan to the state — which could take 30 to 45 days to approve.

Then, the district will “talk to dozens of banks” to find the best interest rate on a $10 million loan, Pendleton said.

Pendleton stressed that paying back the loans will not cost taxpayers additional money. It will come from a state process that allows the district to borrow without dipping into its general fund.

“I don’t want to use the same pot of money that we’re educating kids out of,” Pendleton said.

He estimates the district will start repaying loans in 2019 in increments of about $1.1 million per year. At that rate, the district plans to pay the full amount in seven to 10 years.

At the same time, Pendleton said he conservatively estimates that the consolidation will save the district $1.3 million a year — which results in at least $200,000 of additional money going back into classrooms annually, Pendleton said.

Some board members took the time to praise the plan after voting for it.

“We did say from the beginning of this that we couldn’t continue asking schools to make sacrifices without making sacrifices of our own,” said Board President Patrick Bravo, referring to the district’s ongoing school building consolidation process. “This will be putting cash back into the classrooms from day one, and that’s really important.”

Big need

The district owns two buildings with administrative offices: the Sylvester Small Administration Building — the former Bowen School — at 70 N. Broadway and the Conrad C. Ott Building — the former Miller School — at 65 Steiner Ave.

Superintendent David James said both buildings are more than 100 years old and in need of repair.

“In the last seven or eight days, the elevator’s been out again,” James said at the meeting. “We have some outdated systems here.”

The buildings are 3 miles apart, which wastes employees’ time and resources when traveling between the two, James said.

Pendleton said the district is still working on what to do with the two older buildings. He said there is a “very active plan” for the Sylvester Small building, but it’s not ready to be made public.

The five-story building at 10 N. Main St., built in 2001 on the former Portage Hotel site, is 100,000 square feet and has more than 500 parking spaces.

The parking lot is not part of the building cost. Pendleton said the district is working with the city on a land and property transfer that “hopefully won’t be a financial transaction.”

Theresa Cottom can be reached at 330-996-3216 or tcottom@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @Theresa_Cottom.