Sycamore bond issue under fire

Friday, September 25, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

BLUE ASH -- The Sycamore school board is asking for too much money in its request for a $45 million bond issue on the November ballot, according to a group of residents.

The group -- calling itself Sycamore's Concern is Overzealous Facilities Financing -- suggests a cut-down proposal they say would save taxpayers about $19 million.

"We feel it can be trimmed," said Rick Friedman, of Montgomery, the group's co-founder and parent of two children in Sycamore schools.

"Vote it down, and we'll come back again with lower numbers." The group will explain its views at a meeting open to the public at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Raffel's-The Legion Hall, 11330 Williamson Road, Blue Ash.

"The focus of the meeting will be to show people there is a second, very, very viable alternative based on core-value needs," Mr. Friedman said.

Plans for spending the bond money should be studied more, said Mary Jane Kenyon, of Blue Ash, the group's co-founder.

"I think that they're rushing here at the end," she said.

"I wish they'd step back a little and really finalize things. Maybe we don't need that much money . . .

"We're not anti-Sycamore," she said. "We have an excellent school system, and we want to keep it that way. But we also want to be fiscally responsible to the taxpayers."

In November, Sycamore residents will vote on a 2.39-mill bond issue to generate $45 million for construction and improvements to all schools in Sycamore Community School District.

Sycamore residents also face a second school-tax increase on the Nov. 3 ballot: a 5-mill operating levy to raise additional money for the district's daily expenses.

This group is working only to defeat the bond issue and is not addressing the merits of the operating levy.

Both Mr. Friedman and Ms. Kenyon are members of the school district's Planning Commission, appointed by the school board. The two are acting as individuals, they said, and the group's agenda is not endorsed by the Planning Commission.

The group proposes a lowered bond issue that would generate $25.8 million.

The money can be saved by such things as not building a new auditorium at Sycamore High School, but, instead, renovating the building's Little Theater and using the junior high school's auditorium when needed, Mr. Friedman said.

Renovation at 50-year-old Montgomery Elementary School, the district's oldest building, also could be pared down, Mr. Friedman said.

District officials say the $45 million package is necessary to provide expanded gyms, cafeterias, media centers and classrooms for the district's growing enrollment.

The package is based on input from residents during numerous community forums and a list of options provided by architects, district officials said.

Voting down the bond issue in November -- even if it eventually passes in 1999 -- would delay renovation work several years until the taxes are collected and distributed, district officials said.

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