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Yellow Springs voters to decide on major school project

The Yellow Springs school district will ask voters on May 8 to approve a combination income tax and property tax increase to fund significant renovations and additions at the high school/McKinney Middle School complex.

Superintendent Mario Basora cited numerous reasons to pursue the project, including safety and functionality problems at the existing schools, plus a chance to increase educational quality and help the Yellow Springs community thrive for years to come by attracting young families.

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Basora said the school district was originally open to a variety of options, including a completely new K-12 school complex. But community feedback via five public forums and a survey opposed the K-12 campus and led to the final proposal.

Master Plan documents from the school district describe an $18.5 million project to demolish some older sections of the school campus, significantly renovate others and construct a new 48,000 square foot academic wing, plus a 4,400 square-foot band room and office space addition. The school district’s website has multiple detailed graphics showing the proposed changes.

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“I believe strongly that the schools belong to the community, so we need to deliver the schools that the community wants and desires,” he said. “We’ll do our best to deliver that.”

The two-part tax will be a single vote on the ballot. The property tax portion is a 4.7-mill bond issue that would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $164.50 per year for 37 years, according to the Greene County Auditor’s Office. It would be paired with a 0.25 percent income tax.

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Yellow Springs does not currently qualify for money from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission’s traditional school construction funding program. But Basora said the school district hopes it can qualify for some funding via one of two alternate OFCC streams.

If not, the bond issue money would be enough to build the addition and do some of the desired renovations. And the OFCC funding comes with certain requirements on the schools.

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“We heard loud and clear from the community that we want to pursue what the community wants for our schools, not what the OFCC wants,” Basora said. “If it happens that we can pursue what we want and get funding from OFCC at same time, certainly we’d be interested in that.”

Basora cited an OFCC review of facilities pointing to numerous needs in the district, including $900,000 in hazardous materials cleanup, $2 million in structural work and $2 million in roof repairs pending in the next 10 years.

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He said the project would create collaboration/project space that is currently missing — crucial in a district focused on project-based learning. It would also replace an “archaic” kitchen, allowing the district to prepare more fresh, organic foods that Basora said parents have asked for.

“No doubt the parents and teachers are the most important pieces for an effective education for students. But I do believe the space itself is the third factor and an important partner in that work,” Basora said. “When a child walks into school and they see water leaking from the ceiling, it sends them a clear message about the value placed on them and their education and their school. … I think a new space creates an opportunity for new kinds of learning.”

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