Saturday, July 19, 2003

Funds sought for new school

Talawanda asks less after 2 issues fail

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

OXFORD - In an effort to win voter approval Nov. 4, Talawanda Schools officials are paring back a failed bond issue, asking only for money to build a new elementary school.

The $9.2 million bond issue the school board is proposing would pay for construction of a K-5 elementary school large enough for 500 students. It would replace Stewart Elementary School, which closed last month.

In the past eight months voters have twice turned down a $19.5 million issue that included improvements to the high school and Kramer and Maud Marshall elementary schools.

"This cuts out everything to all other buildings," said Superintendent Phil Cagwin. "We could use the proceeds from Stewart to do some of the other improvements."

Stewart will be put on the auction block Aug. 16. The school board has set the minimum bid at $1.75 million.

To begin the process to put the bond issue on the ballot, the board on Friday unanimously approved five resolutions, including one asking the county auditor to certify the necessary millage to raise the money. The vote to put the issue on the ballot is set for Aug. 18, after the board receives the auditor's certification.

Oxford resident Douglas Troy said he would support the bond issue but will continue efforts to create a separate school district whose boundaries would include only Oxford and Oxford Township.

"I just want better educational opportunities for our children. If Talawanda can accomplish that as one district, I support that," said Troy, a member of the Talawanda Schools Reorganization Committee.

The committee plans to make a presentation to the state board of education in September or October.

Reorganization members have said they are frustrated with lack of voter approval for school issues In the last 35 years, Reily, Milford and Hanover township residents have rejected every issue put before voters while Oxford Township residents voted in favor of 24 of 34 issues and city residents voted positively in 33 of 34 ballot questions.

Board members talked about the reorganization efforts' effect on a bond issue but decided to move forward.

"I think we have to stay the course," said board member Robert Huff.

Treasurer James Rowan estimated it would take about 1.19 mills to raise the necessary funds for the project. That would add about $36 annually to the tax bill of a $100,000 house.

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