Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Fairfield 2-mill school levy on May 6 ballot

Necessary to maintain nearly doubled space

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

FAIRFIELD - Voters in the Fairfield Schools will decide May 6 whether to increase their taxes to maintain the district's 10 schools.

Monday, the board of education voted unanimously to put a 2-mill permanent improvement replacement levy on the May ballot. It replaces a five-year levy first approved in 1978, which has been renewed every five years since and expires at the end of this year.

"Since then, our building square footage has nearly doubled," said Maurice Godsey, who sits on the school board. "This year, we need to increase the amount of money because of the tremendous amount of space we need to maintain."

The expiring levy brings about $855,000 annually to schools, said J. Scott Gooding, Fairfield schools treasurer. The replacement levy would supply about $2 million each of the next five years, beginning in January. Taxes on a $100,000 house would increase about $45 a year, Gooding said.

Since the current permanent improvement levy was approved, a new high school and East Elementary were constructed, and the district purchased and renovated the former Southern Ohio College campus for use as a kindergarten center. Those additions put the district's total square footage past the 1 million mark, said Superintendent Robert Farrell.

"Our square footage has doubled since 1978," Farrell said. "Our needs are greater with older buildings and more square footage. To keep our schools up, we need these funds or they will deteriorate." Funds from the replacement levy would pay for new roofs or roof repairs at seven schools. Money to be spent at individual schools over the five years ranges from a low of $126,647 at East Elementary to a high of $1.27 million at the middle school. There is also $1.47 millionset aside to upgrade technology in the district and a $683,909 contingency fund for unexpected repairs.

Resident Arnold Engel, who has opposed past school issues, said he's not sure if he's going to support this issue.

"I would support it 100 percent if I knew 100 percent of the money would be used to maintain the schools and for repairs," Engel said. "But they've left a back door open. They can use it to buy computers and school buses."

Making those sorts of purchases would free up general fund money, which Engel said he fears would go toward salaries.

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