By Daniel Downs
If Xenia taxpayers want new schools or even the Under-One-Roof plan, they need to consider the costs. Xenia can change the structure of the school system and rebuild all but two new schools plus a new central office just to get the state to pay 46% ($56 million) of the total costs.
Under the new plan, the central office building, Cox, Shawnee, Simon Kenton, and South Hill school buildings will require reuse plans. The YMCA is moving whether or not voters approve of the Under-One-Roof plan. The library is considering using the YMCA to expand its services. The Senior Citizen Center is hoping to move as well. Other buildings in the downtown area requiring reuse including the old historic library located across the street from the both the Senior Citizen Center and YMCA, and the list goes on…. If these buildings will be reused for public purposes, Xenia taxpayers will have to foot the bill for any repairs or renovations. Ideally, private investors would be attracted to purchase any abandoned school buildings.
During the Xenia Community School District Forum, I suggested reusing Brenner Field House as a theater for plays and musicals. Unfortunately, the filed house was built over a garbage dump. So reusing Brenner may not such a good idea, according Robert Smith.
If all of the school buildings are going to be rebuilt per voter approval, why not build all of them on same property along with a new YMCA, Senior Citizen Center, Kettering Hospital out-patient center, and branches of several colleges. That way the elementary and middle school students would benefit from the YMCA, nearby health care, and possibly interaction with wise and caring senior citizens. It’s true project costs would be higher and busing cost would probably increase as well, but the benefits might exceed the additional costs.
As the meeting proceeded through old building reuse ideas, it dawned on me that almost all of the attendees except for maybe a half-dozen residents were past or present educators. There may have been two or three parents with children attending Cox or other Xenia schools at the forum. There were a lot of teachers present. One of them asked a pertinent question: what will happen to their jobs. What board member Bill Spahr didn’t say was that all of them would be placed in new positions at new schools.
Beyond reuse and employment issues, the bottom line is whether Xenia residents can afford a $66.5 million or more bond issue. As I pointed out in my February article titled What is the Future of Xenia Under One Roof, 62 percent of Xenia residents qualify for the hot welfare program called State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Nearly a third of Xenia residents have incomes at or below the poverty line. That leaves about 38 percent who still might be capable of handling more taxes on top of the rising costs for gas, food, and most other goods and services.
What happens if Xenia voters do not approve any rebuilding plan? Will any money still be available for renovating or rebuilding school facilities in the future? I asked the Ohio School Facilities Commission that question, but I never got a response. The tobacco securitization funds will no longer be available after 2009. After that time, a portion of any funds the General Assembly budgets for school renovation and construction will be available to deserving school districts to help fund building projects.
Maybe what Xenia needs is a very wealthy patron saint or at least a few generous patrons. If a golden giver is not available or willing, maybe Congress would be disposed to redirect some of it golden earmarked pork to Xenia to cover the cost of building new schools. It would probably be more effective than the current stimulus plan and certainly healthier than their economy-killing subsidies to the ethanol industry. If Congress doesn’t have a heart to share more of its pork with Xenia, maybe the State of Ohio would give us back our 9 cent surcharge on all of our gas and electric. It seems only fair seeing the state no longer intends to give any of it to citizens for windmills or solar energy and similar renewable energy enhancements. The state didn’t give much of it to homeowners anyway. A lot of it was redirected to cover other state programs. The question we should be asking is why renters and homeowners are subsidizing the energy industry instead of education. Let business subsidize their own growth and innovations. Of course, the problem is convincing those who represent us in the Ohio General Assembly that it is a better idea than those propositions being argued by industry lobbyists.
Originally published on April 29 in the Xenia Daily Gazette.