Yellow Springs voters to decide on new taxes for school construction

Yellow Springs Schools
Yellow Springs Schools

Voters in the village of Yellow Springs will decide May 8 on tax issues to fund major renovations and new construction at the high school and McKinney Middle School campus.

The $18.5 million proposal calls for demolishing older sections of the building and adding a new 48,000 square foot academic wing. The plan also calls for the addition of a new 4,400 square-foot band room and office space. In addition, the design of the project incorporates patio space on each academic wing, which creates “a building that will peremeate outside to inside,” said Yellow Springs Schools Superintendent Mario Basora.

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“(The patios) reflect the community’s values of kids working in nature and getting outdoors,” Basora said.

To pay for it, voters will be asked to cast one vote on two new taxes — a 37-year, 4.7-mill bond issue that would cost property owners $164.50 a year on $100,000 worth of property — and a 0.25 percent income tax increase.

This plan to address the campus’ aging school buildings was borne of out a “strategic planning process” that started around 2010 and culminated in a community survey and multiple open forums in 2017, Basora said.

“We have serious needs. The buildings date back to 1963. Toxic materials were used that were not of high quality,” Basora said. “A trailer for the middle school was added in 1988. Thirty years later, we have a set of trailers in the back of the middle school. All of that has created significant problems.”

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According to Basora, those problems include not having an automatic fire suppression system, noncompliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, asbestos remediation, $2 million in roofing replacement and safety and security concerns. Those concerns include not having a vestibule to provide a more secured front entrance, Basora said.

“All of that has led us to the point that this is a good time to ask the community — Do we keep doing what we’re doing, investing more dollars in maintenance — or make great improvements with a new addition and new academic core,” he said.

The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission assessed the campus and recommended $16 million in improvements to replace windows, floors, roofing and systems. Basora said that alternative wouldn’t include any new construction and wouldn’t result in improving how the buildings function.

The community continues to pay for new classrooms at the elementary and high school as well as an expanded gym at the elementary school. Basora said that bond issue will not be paid off for another seven years.

Not everyone is in favor of the current proposal.

Resident Amy Magnus said the current tax proposals will “price out too many residents” and not all of the district’s students will benefit.

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“I can support a plan that’s right-sized,” Magnus said. “We need a phased approach that sets reasonable construction and maintenance goals that the village can commit to as a community. For now, the community can readily build consensus around a more modest project — Properly housing our middle school students.”

With a total enrollment of about 750 students, Yellow Springs Schools are projected to remain steady, with enrollment growing only by 25 more students over the next 10 years, Basora said.