Monday, January 22, 2001

Talawanda schools planning 10 years ahead

Bond issue may be called for

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor


        OXFORD — In about a month, Talawanda school officials will have the beginnings of a plan that could guide their decisions on school improvements for a decade.

        Consultants from the Ohio School Facilities Commission began looking at the district's five buildings last week.

        They are to make recommendations on building improvements in four to six weeks.

        The next question to be answered: how to pay for all this work.

        James Rowan, the district's treasurer, said a bond issue of 2 to 2.5 mills would provide $13 million to $17 million for building needs.

        It would give the nearly debt-free district enough money to build an elementary school, but not enough money to address the lack of classroom space for high school students.

        In 2009-11, Talawanda would be eligible for about 25 percent in matching state funds for improvements approved by the commission.

        A bond issue passed in November or later could count toward the district's 75 percent match provided the money is spent on qualifying projects, Mr. Rowan said.

        Over the past two years Talawanda educators and consultants from Wright State University identified improvements totaling $40 million at schools. Voters twice rejected bond issues that would have closed Stewart Elementary and built a high school.

        “We're at a scratching stage, looking for options. Our building problems are still there,” said William Vollmer, president of the school board.

        The task facing the community now will be meshing the state's recommendations with the other reports to develop a long-term plan for the district, said Phil Cagwin, assistant superintendent.

        Once that plan is developed a financing plan — including some kind of ballot issue — would have to be put in place before improvements could be made.

        Parent Chris Maraschiell said the two previous bond issues for the high school failed because the proposed site was too close to Oxford.

        “Even though it was not in the city it was as close as you can get,” Mr. Maraschiell said.

        John Bowie suggested putting an income tax on the ballot, citing the large number of farmers, like his family, who don't want any more increases in their property taxes, especially since voters two months ago approved a 6.5-mill operating levy for the schools.

        “There's a lot of farmers around here. It's just killing us,” Mr. Bowie said.

        After the state makes its recommendation the board will again seek comment from the public before making any decisions, Mr. Vollmer said.


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