Fairborn schools consider tax levy to cover inflated costs of new high school

Voters approved a bond issue in 2020 to pay for construction of the high school, which is underway; but some features are delayed

FAIRBORN — A $24.6 million bond issue to fund projects that were cut from the new Fairborn High School due to inflation is being considered.

The Fairborn City Schools board of education is expected to vote tonight on a preliminary measure to place what Treasurer Kevin Philo estimated to be a 1.75-mill, 34-year property tax issue on the May 2023 ballot.

Voters approved a 5.83-mill bond issue in 2020 to pay for the new high school, arts center and athletics complex in conjunction with the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission funding.

However, rising costs prompted the district to delay some planned improvements — softball fields, baseball fields and tennis courts among them, district officials said.

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The new money “is needed because of inflation causing the costs to be higher on the new high school,” Fairborn school board President Jerry Browning said in an email. “To get the project within budget at the higher costs we had to cut items that wouldn’t negatively affect academic areas. This new bond issue would bring back those items, plus needed alternates.”

The new high school under construction on Commerce Center Boulevard — once estimated to cost $70 million — is now projected at $82 million, Philo told board members earlier.

A final school board vote on whether to put the proposed bond on the ballot would come in January, Philo said in an email. The tax issue would fund about $10 million in work that had been planned, he said.

Philo said if approved by the board and voters in May, the tax issue would not cause residents to pay a higher tax rate than they do today. He said that’s because collection of funds from the 2023 bond would start in January 2027, when a separate long-term tax issue expires.

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But the proposed tax measure would be “an additional levy,” Greene County Auditor David Graham said in an email. “The full impact of the new levy may not be felt by the taxpayer because as one levy expires another one is coming on. The two issues are independent of one another.”

“The old levy expires regardless of whether the new levy passes. So, what might have been tax savings to the property owners is being offset with a tax increase,” Graham added.

The auditor said voters in Xenia City Schools may have approved a similar measure in the past.

Fairborn has a bond levy that runs from tax year 1999-2025, which would last collect in calendar year 2026, Graham said. The current effective tax rate for that levy is 1.8 mills, he added.

If approved, Philo said, it may be possible to use some funds from the proposed bond issue for the new Fairborn Middle School project, which could mean more state funding.

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