Thursday, May 1, 2003

Taft comes home to rally voters to pass school levy



By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Ohio Gov. Bob Taft holds a T-shirt supporting ballot Issue 3 during a rally to support the school levy. At left is Alton Frailey, school superintendent , and at right is Mayor Charlie Luken.
(Gary Landers photo)
| ZOOM |
Gov. Bob Taft came to his hometown Wednesday to campaign for Cincinnati Public Schools' $480 million bond issue for school construction.

"This is very personal for me," he said. "I know how old these buildings are. I'm concerned about the kids."

Speaking to bond issue supporters at campaign headquarters in Bond Hill, Taft said Cincinnati students are learning in crumbling, outdated buildings.

He stressed that the state will contribute $210 million toward the nearly $1 billion decade-long project if voters approve the bond issue Tuesday.

The state is offering funding to all 612 Ohio school districts to upgrade school buildings and has proposed spending $10.2 billion over the next decade to help finance the construction. School districts must come up with a local share to receive the state contribution.

From 1998 through July 2002, 142 of 145 school districts participating in the state program passed bond issues or supplied some local money to receive the state funds.

Cincinnati is receiving state funding for the first-segment of its four-segment project because it has identified the necessary revenues to fund that phase. However, voters in November defeated the $480 million bond issue to finance the remainder of the plan to build 35 new schools and renovate 31 more.

"About every other city in Ohio has already passed their levy," Taft said. "I'd like to help my hometown."

He warned that it's possible the state legislature could change the funding rules for the state-assisted school construction program if Cincinnati voters wait too long.

City Councilman David Crowley, who attended the event, said the project would be good for Cincinnati.

"This is one of the most significant investments in our schools and neighborhoods," he said.

Sue Taylor, president of the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers, said it was important for the governor to come here to promote the bond issue.

"It expresses the absolute urgency of the situation," she said.

If passed, the bond issue would mean an additional $135 in annual property taxes on a home valued at $100,000.

E-mail jmrozowski@enquirer.com




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