Xenia schools to form community task force in wake of 3 levy defeats

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Xenia schools to form community task force in wake of 3 levy defeats

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Xenia Community Schools is exploring options for replacing the district’s aging Warner Middle School and Xenia High School after voters rejected another levy this month.

Xenia school officials are looking for people who will serve on a community task force to help determine what the district should do about two of its oldest school buildings — Warner Middle and Xenia High School.

School board members have held two public meetings with David Conley, president of Rockmill Financial Consulting, a firm specializing in school taxation and facilities funding. The Xenia school board hired Rockmill to help determine its next steps following a series of defeats at the polls.

“We’re in the process of working with the consulting group to outline what the options are,” said Interim Superintendent Gabriel Lofton. “We will obtain input from the community over the course of the next couple of months.”

In August, voters rejected a proposed bond issue to pay for a new school building that would have replaced both the high school and Warner Middle School. It was the third time the same tax proposal was turned down by the voters. Consequently, approximately $32 million of state funding that was set aside for the roughly $80 million project was returned to the pool for other districts to use.

Conley has advised that the board has a few options going forward: Abandon the new construction project; reduce the scope of the project and reapply for funding from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission; offset project costs with existing district resources and reapply for OFCC funding; or a combination of the last two.

Xenia School Board President Pam Callahan said the board has not made any decisions yet. “Improving academic success” is a priority and must be considered as part of the conversation to renovate or build new.

“It’s been made clear to us that we definitely need to know what the community can support and what the community is willing to support,” Callahan said. “We’ve heard loud and clear, the community can’t finance this large of a project. We hope to make the burden more palatable.”

Part of Conley’s presentation to the board included an analysis of the district’s demographics and financial standing among residents. Those findings indicate that Xenia’s population is aging, many residents are on fixed incomes and “homeowners and local farmers are feeling constrained” financially, according to the district.

Voters have passed nearly 64 percent of Xenia schools’ levies since 1986, according to the district.

“This tells me the community is very supportive of the schools,” Conley’s statement reads. “Given the results of the bond issues though, it suggests to me the community must be more engaged in determining the scope of the project and the ultimate cost that will be passed on to taxpayers.”

If you are interested in joining the community task force, contact Lofton at (937) 376-2961.

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