Xenia schools asking for bond issue to replace Warner Middle School

Credit: Ty Greenlees

Credit: Ty Greenlees

The Xenia school district is asking residents to vote on two property tax issues in the May 4 election — renewal of an existing 1.3-mill school facilities levy, plus a new 2.3-mill bond issue to pay for the replacement of Warner Middle School.

The 2.3-mill bond issue would help the district construct a new middle school with improved safety and technology, and make the building ADA complaint for wheelchair-bound students and students with other mobility issues.

“We’re in dire need of a new middle school,” said Xenia schools Superintendent Gabe Lofton. “Nearly every critical system in terms of the operations of the building is in major need of repair or replacement for everything from electrical, the air conditioning, and the fire system are in need of repair.”

Lofton said the bond issue would also help the district implement a new security camera system and other safety measures.

“In the 21st century we have to have a safe and secure school. Security is paramount and right now this building that was built nearly 60 years ago isn’t safe and secure enough for our middle school students,” Lofton said.

If approved, the 37-year bond is projected to average 2.3 mills and generates an average of $1.78 million annually decreasing over time, covering the $36 million cost of the project, as well as interest repayments on the bond. The bond would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an estimated $80.50 per year.

If approved, the bond issue would pay for the entire cost of the middle school project. The district is also on the waiting list for possible reimbursement funding from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission. If that $15 million to $20 million is ever approved, district officials say it could be used to pay off debt on the middle school project, or pay for other building projects, such as a renovation of Xenia High School, said Xenia Community Schools spokeswoman Kristy Creel.

Back in 2009, Xenia voters approved a bond issue that paid for five new elementary schools. But since then, they have said no to repeated bond requests. In 2016-17, they rejected bonds for a new middle school-high school complex three times.

The May 4 bond issue is similar to what the Xenia school district put on the ballot in November. Voters narrowly turned that down, by a 51-49 ratio. Lofton said he is cautiously optimistic that voters will pass the bond issue this time around.

“In November it was really, really close,” Lofton said. “There were thousands of community members who did vote in favor of it. And the need doesn’t go away, so we decided to move forward because it’s something that our children need in our community and that a lot of individuals within our community want, too.”

Lofton said the school district spent more than two years engaging the community on how to update or replace the middle school.

The new Warner middle school would be build on land adjacent to the current middle school.

Xenia school district officials said the 1.3-mill permanent improvement levy, which is up for renewal May 4, has been funding capital improvement projects across the district for decades.

Previous projects funded by permanent improvement dollars include the restoration of the historic Benner Field House in 2019 and the renovation of the Bob Hope Auditorium at Xenia High School, which opened this year. These dollars also funded smaller projects, like a parking lot repair and a district-wide LED lighting project, Lofton said.

“These are critical dollars for us,” he said.

The permanent improvement levy generates about $450,000 annually and was last approved by voters in 2016.

As a renewal of an existing tax, it would not raise tax rates if passed by voters.

The school district will be hosting community Zoom calls on Tuesdays in the month of April to talk about the upcoming ballot issues. The first Zoom was held April 6. The other video calls will be held at 6 p.m. on April 13, April 20, April 27 and April 29.

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