Xenia schools to contract with financial consulting firm

Xenia school leaders are looking to contract with a financial consulting firm to explore funding options on fixing or replacing two aging school buildings.

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Details are still being worked out, but Xenia school board members voted in favor of a contract with Rockmill Financial Consulting LLC at their meeting Monday night. 

The move comes after voters in August rejected a tax increase for a third time that would have funded a new school building to replace the aging Warner Middle and Xenia High schools.

MORE >>> Xenia voters reject school bond issue for 3rd time

On Monday night, school board members added revisions to the proposed contract that are being reviewed by Rockmill President David Conley, according to Xenia Community Schools Treasurer Eric Soltis. 

Details of those revisions were not immediately available.

Xenia School Board President Pam Callahan released a statement on behalf of the board, stating that Rockmill has worked with the district for many years and Conley “is an expert in the Ohio School Facilities Program and in taxation.”

"His unique expertise in these areas provides him the ability to evaluate the needs of our community and to create options to fund our needs at a lower cost to residents,” Callahan’s statement reads. “While no decision has been made as to how or if the district will move forward with a building plan, contracting with Rockmill will be instrumental in providing guidance and expertise to the process.”

Prior to the vote, the terms of the proposed contract were spelled out in a letter from Conley to Soltis. The proposed one-year agreement would cost the school district $39,500 to retain Rockmill’s services as well as cover out-of-pocket expenses and legal counsel. 

According to the letter, Rockmill would in return advise and provide services on a host of initiatives: Conduct board member workshops to determine the district’s next steps on funding options; form a community financial task force; develop a plan to inform and engage the public about the district’s facilities plans; and develop strategies to fund projects with minimal tax increases.

MORE >>> Xenia schools name new interim superintendent

Soltis said district officials are still working on a plan moving forward to address improvements in the school buildings. 

“There are still a lot of questions at this time,” Soltis said. 

The third defeat at the polls — coming in an August special election — means the school district lost an estimated $28.5 million from the state that was slated to go toward the new school building’s construction. State funding combined with the local share from the taxpayers indicates the project would have cost more than $80 million. 

Last year, the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission recommended that Warner Middle School, built in 1962, and Xenia High School, built in 1976, be replaced. The commission cited various, costly problems in both buildings: Water damaged ceilings; leaky plumbing; outdated electric and heating/cooling systems; small, technologically-challenged classrooms; and multiple issues in complying with Americans with Disabilities Act. 

The estimated cost to address those problems? According to the district, $46 million. 

Since 2007, the district has spent nearly $3 million in repairs and improvements at the two school buildings, according to information the district provided during the bond-issue campaign.

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