New Monroe school tax headed to ballot

Residents in the Monroe Schools district will see a tax hike issue on the November 2020 ballot.

That’s the latest plan from school officials who want to ask taxpayers to help the district pay for a new school to replace a primary school that opened in 1954.

The tax millage amount and other details are still to be worked out, said Monroe school officials.

Public forums during the coming months to determine what the community would like to see in any new school plans will help sort that out, said officials.

Under school officials’ strategy, the state would pay for more than half the cost of the new school, which could open as early as 2023.

Monroe Primary School is the district’s oldest and is too aged to renovate due to prohibitive costs that would total more than building a new school, said officials.

The school system’s main campus, which now houses grades second through 12th, is also overcrowded and enrolls more students than it was designed to handle, said Holly Cahall, treasurer of Monroe Schools.

“Everyone recognizes that we have grown out of our main campus. The plan is to build an elementary school – first through fourth grade – on the site of the old high school in Monroe,” she said referring to the now grassy field that was once the site of the former Lemon-Monroe High School adjacent to the Monroe City Hall property.

“We would move 1st through 4th grade out of the main campus, and the main campus would serve 5th grade through 12th grade. Our primary school which now serves preschool, kindergarten and 1st grade, would then serve preschool and kindergarten.”

School facilities funding under Ohio school law allows eligible districts to apply to the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC), which Monroe did in 2017, to have state funds offset some of the costs of building a new school and some types of other infrastructure projects.

In 2018 Monroe school officials expected to be approved by the OFCC and would have offered the tax bond issue to voters that fall. But OFCC officials, citing an unexpected surge of applicant school districts statewide, lowered Monroe’s place on the commission’s priority list, delaying the project.

Monroe Schools recently received good financial news when it learned Moody’s Investors had raised the district’s bond rating, which will allow the district to borrow money at a cheaper interest rate should voters approve the bond issue planned for 2020.

Timing is important, said Cahall.

“Right now we are not eligible for state (OFCC) funding, but we will be eligible in two or more years. When we do get state funds, they will pay 68 percent for our building,” she said.

“If the (tax) is passed, it locks in the state’s share of 68 percent. This is huge, and one of the reasons for acting now. Another reason is we are running out of space, and this would allow us to have more space by 2023. If we waited on the state, it would be 2025 or beyond,” she said.

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