Updated: 10:38 p.m. Tuesday, May 6, 2014 | Posted: 8:36 p.m. Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Fairfield school levy passes; Middletown levy failing

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By Rick McCrabbEd Richter and Eric Robinette

MIDDLETOWN

With more than 5,000 votes counted, the $95 million bond issue is failing by 63 votes, 2,575 against to 2,512 for, according to the Butler and Warren county boards of elections.

Butler County voters are rejecting the issue 2,575 to 2,512, while Warren voters are rejecting the issue 137 to 105.

Six months ago, voters rejected the district’s issue, a 4.0-mill bond issue and 0.26-mill permanent improvement levy by 283 votes, 3,007 against to 2,724 for, according to the Butler and Warren county boards of elections.

Of that $95 million, $40 million would come from Ohio School Facilities Commission. If voters reject the bond issue, the funds would expire, and the district would have to pay 100 percent for the buildings and renovations, Ison said.

For every $59,000 of home market value, the average home price in the city, the levy would cost the homeowner $84 a year, the district said. If the value of Middletown homes and the city’s tax base remained the same for the next 37 years, residents would pay $3,108 over the life of the 37-year bond issue, according to the Butler County Auditor’s Office.

At the head of the issue is the district’s middle school, described on election signs around Middletown as “one of the oldest schools” in the state. The Middletown Middle School was built in 1923 for more than $1 million, making it at the time the most expensive school to be built in the country, said George Long, the business manager. In the 91 years since, the school that has served as the high school, freshman building and Vail Middle School, has received two renovations in 1953 and 1961, he said.

When it was built on Girard Avenue, the 240,000-square-foot school was considered state-of-the-art with its wide hallways, high ceilings, and steam heat. But now, Long said, it’s no longer efficient. He said the district spends about $1 million a year on utilities for all of its schools and 30 percent, or $300,000, of that budget is earmarked for the middle school.

Also, he said, the ceiling needs replaced at a cost of $900,000, the lockers are failing apart, some of the ceiling tile is falling down, and new plumbing is required.

Long said the cost of building a 135,000-square-foot middle school on the grounds of the high school is $37 million, $7 million less than repairing the Middletown Middle School. Repairing the middle school, and not building a new one, he said, would be like spending thousands of dollars on car repairs, instead of buying a used vehicle for less money.

“It has served its purpose,” Long said.

Ison called the decision “a no-brainer.”

FAIRFIELD

Fairfield Central Elementary and Freshman school will be replaced now that voters passed the school district’s $61 million bond issue on the second-go-round.

According to unofficial vote totals from the Butler County Board of Elections, the bond issue passed 58 to 42 percent with all precincts reporting.

The $80 million plan calls for the demolition of the aging Fairfield Central and Freshman schools, with both of those buildings being replaced. The new Central building would be near the current location; the new Freshman building will be across the street from the high school on Holden Blvd, on land the district owns. The plan also calls for a third elementary building that will be placed at an as-yet undetermined location.

The bond issue will cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $91 per year in property tax.

The state, via the Ohio School Facilities Commission, is providing $19 million of the $80 million.

The plan, approved with community input, not only affects those at Fairfield and Central, but in all buildings. The district’s plan calls for realigning the grades to reduce the number of transitions between buildings.

“We are overjoyed that the community supported this opportunity to improve the educational environment for children,” said Fairfield Superintendent Paul Otten. “This partnership between our stakeholders and the state will provide not only new facilities that are badly needed, but will help us restructure the district in a way that gives our children exceptional learning experiences. As good stewards of their tax dollars, we are thankful that they want to do what’s best for kids.”

LIBERTY TWP.

With all 3,873 votes counted, a 3-mill renewal levy that pays for the township’s law enforcement services has been approved, according to early, unofficial results from the Butler County Board of Elections.

Those voting to approve the levy numbered 73.22 percent while those voting against it numbered 26.78 percent.

The sheriff’s office provides service to Liberty Twp. residents in three eight-hour shifts. Taxpayers started paying for those services via a levy in 1995, then approved a 3-mill renewal levy in 2005 and a 3-mill replacement levy in 2009 that took into consideration new property values, officials said.

Collections for that levy, which generate on average around $2.4 million, expire at the end of this year.

The township asked residents to approve the renewal levy to continue receiving those funds, which pay for a nearly $2.5 million police budget that covers police protection and equipment the township receives via the Butler County Sheriff’s Office.

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