Monroe to seek tax issue for new high school

Officials cite crowding, will ask voters for approval in November.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

MONROE — Residents in this fast-growing community will see a school tax increase request on the fall ballot to pay for a new high school to cope with overcrowded classrooms.

The proposed tax bond issue would pay for a portion of the total construction costs — not covered by state funds — for a new Monroe High School, Monroe school district officials said Thursday.

The new high school would be built in the southeast corner — now used for athletic practice fields — of Monroe’s current 2-12 school campus off of Yankee Road in the booming Butler County community.

Years of expanding enrollment has the current high school, which is part of the three-winged, multi-story 2-12 school, suffering from a classroom space crunch projected to continue into the future, said the leader of the 2,900-student school system.

“Monroe’s districtwide enrollment has nearly doubled since our main campus was completed, from 1,515 students in 2004 to more than 2,900 students today,” said Monroe Superintendent Robert Buskirk.

“Over the years, we have made efforts to address significant overcrowding in our school buildings by repurposing existing spaces like gyms, media centers, meeting rooms and storage spaces, but a lack of available space continues to limit opportunities for our students and staff,” said Buskirk.

Though Monroe school officials are planning to place the proposed tax bond issue on the November ballot, the millage for the bond issue has not yet been calculated and will be announced sometime in the spring or summer, they said.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Moreover, total high school construction costs, building plans, construction and opening timelines and other details are still being formulated.

Monroe taxpayers wouldn’t be the only ones paying for a new high school should they vote “yes” to raising their school property taxes in November.

Since 2015 the district has been on a waiting list with the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) to fund a 68 percent of whatever total construction cost is for the new school, according to an agreement reached between Monroe Schools and the OFCC.

But state funds are only made available if local school district voters first approve tax bond issues for their portion of new school construction costs.

Under Ohio law, public school systems can ask voters to approve bond issues for new school construction, building renovations or repairs but the funds are not the same local tax revenue as those monies from voter-approved operating tax levies.

Buskirk said a facilities analysis conducted by the OFCC showed the capacity of Monroe’s main campus (grades 2-12) is 1,955 students.

“In reality, this campus is now home to more than 2,400 students,” he said.

The other Monroe school building is the district’s primary school, which was built in the late 1950s and in recent years had been discussed by district officials for possible replacement.

The district, which was once part of Middletown Schools, was separated by the state in 2000 into its own school system with an initial enrollment of about 1,000 students.

School officials said if voters approve the tax bond issue in November, the property tax increase would not take effect until 2029.

“Under the current funding plan any potential increase in taxes would not take effect until 2029 when the existing bond issue for Monroe’s main campus is completely paid off. At that time, the expiring bond would help offset any potential tax increase as the community would no longer be responsible for payments on the existing elementary, junior high and high school buildings on Yankee Road,” said Buskirk.

“The millage rate and estimated cost to homeowners have yet to be calculated and will be shared this spring or summer,” he said.

The decision to seek a new high school included first reaching out for public input about the idea.

“During the 2022-2023 school year, an advisory committee consisting of more than 100 members of the Monroe community began meeting monthly to provide input and explore options to address our growing facilities concerns,” said Monroe officials.

“And last summer, a smaller group of members from this committee met to discuss the possibilities in more detail and make facilities recommendations.”

“The task at hand now,” said Buskirk, “is to plan a new high school facility and update our existing school buildings to create new opportunities for our students and staff for years to come while still maintaining fiscal responsibility to our community and local taxpayers.

For more information about the coming tax bond issue on the fall ballot and other details to date, Monroe school officials are directing school parents and residents to a Monroe Facilities Master Planning page on the district’s website.

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