Monroe Schools considers tax hike for new building

Monroe residents could see a school tax hike on the ballot next year for a new school to replace one of the oldest schools in Butler County.

The Monroe Primary School first opened its doors in 1954, and officials in charge of the growing school system said the 63-year-old school has in recent years proven to be too expensive to repair or expand and too small to handle the district’s rising enrollment.

“We have used every classroom space available,” said Monroe Schools Superintendent Phil Cagwin.

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Staffers at the Primary School, which holds 475 pre-school, kindergarten and first grade students at its 225 Macready Ave. campus, have been forced to “eliminate our library space two years ago to accommodate an additional first grade classroom due to increased enrollment,” among other adjustments that detract from the school’s efficiency, said Cagwin.

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Monroe school officials are now considering two options.

Constructing a new school on the field adjacent to the Primary School that used to be the campus and football stadium for the former Lemon-Monroe High School, which was demolished last year.

Another option would be to expand Monroe’s other school — the grades 2-12 Monroe School complex about a mile away off of Yankee Road at the school’s expansive, hilltop campus.

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The timing is right to add a school, said Cagwin, because of the coming window of state funding being made available to off-set costs.

“I suspect we will be looking at placing a bond issue on the ballot in November of 2018 at the earliest, as we are in line to receive a commitment of 42 percent matching funds from Ohio Facilities Construction Commission in the summer of 2018,” he said.

Last year Monroe voters overwhelmingly supported a 7.2-mill substitute levy, which was a rarity in that it lowered annual school tax bills for property owners in the Butler County city.

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School officials had discussed months before the levy vote the need to replace the district’s aging primary school, but said voter approval of the substitute levy was a crucial first step toward such a goal.

On Monday evening, the Monroe Board of Education heard a presentation from district officials on options for expanding classroom spaces for the 2,700-student district, which has seen its enrollment double in the last 15 years.

Jesse Catanzaro, director of business operations, said “our district will be continuing to review and explore factors surrounding any and all options to prepare to ensure adequate facility space to serve our growing student population.”

“The facility advisory team will meet again in early August with the goal of their work to share input with the board of education. Additionally, the facility advisory team will be helping to provide opportunities for community engagement with information on the options and the educational and financial impact of different options,” said Catanzaro.

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