Thursday, August 14, 2003

Middletown foresees school savings

Voters will decide 28-year, 4.5-mill bond issue Nov. 4

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

MIDDLETOWN - Middletown Schools would save about $2.1 million annually in operation costs should a $156 million school improvement plan be fully implemented, according to a report on projected costs.

Treasurer Edmund Pokora presented the school board with a preliminary report on operational costs this week. The savings, Pokora said, would come from operating fewer, but newer buildings that would be low-maintenance for several years.

Increased utility costs from air conditioning, he said, would be offset by lowered costs elsewhere, including personnel. The elementary portion of the plan represents about 40 percent of the savings, which would be phased in.

To pay for the local share of the project, it has been divided into two phases. The first, estimated at $75.8 million, would pay to build six new elementary schools, renovate Amanda and convert Verity Middle to an elementary school.

Voters will be asked Nov. 4 to approve a 28-year, 4.5-mill bond issue to fund Phase 1 improvements. Taxes would increase $137.81 annually on a $100,000 house.

The second phase - which won't be started until the elementary schools are built - has an $80.2-million price tag and includes construction of a new high school and renovating the existing high school as the district's sole middle school for students in grades 6-8.

The plan has the approval of the school board and the Ohio School Facilities Commission, which will reimburse the district for 26 percent of the cost, once the plan has been completed.

City leaders and school leaders see passage of the bond issue as an investment. It has the endorsement of the Mid Miami Valley Chamber of Commerce and City Council.

"This is an exciting time because we've been working on this the last four to five years,'' said Superintendent Steve Price.

Several city leaders and the mayor spoke in favor of the bond issue, citing property values, job creation, community pride and economic reasons for their support of the schools.

"As schools go, so goes crime and everything else in this community," said Earl Smith, councilman and former police chief. "I don't think we can afford not to pass this.''

Treasurer Edmund Pokora said the business community would pay about 55 percent of the bond issue; the state would kick in about 26 percent through the Ohio School Facilities Commission, leaving the remainder for residents.

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