XENIA — For the third time in less than a year, voters in Xenia said no to a new high school and middle school complex.

By an unofficial 3,301-2,450 count — the lowest turnout of the three elections — the 37-year levy was defeated. Had it passed, the 4.2-mill levy would have generated more than $52 million to help pay for the complex, slated to be located near U.S. 35 and S.R. 42 at Ledbetter Road. The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission committed nearly $29 million toward to project, but the bond issue had to pass this time for it to be included in the current funding cycle.

It would have cost the owner of a $100,000 home around $12 a month.

“It’s a sad day for our students and our community,” Interim Superintendent Christy Fielding said. “We tried to get voters to the polls. That just didn’t happen today. We want to thank everyone who did get out to the polls and vote yes. Great things are happening for Xenia schools and we will continue our efforts to best serve the children and families of the Xenia community.”

The current buildings, which have a combined age of more than 90 years, present multiple safety issues, are in need of repair and do not meet state guidelines, according to school and state officials. The Ohio School Facilities Commission toured the buildings, did an independent assessment and calculated that the cost of repairs was more than two-thirds of the cost to build new.

Some of the issues the state documented in its assessment include: water-damaged ceilings and leaking and failing plumbing; insufficient and outdated heating, ventilation, and electrical systems; lack of fire suppression systems — not compliant with building codes or state guidelines; obsolete and strained electrical systems; infrastructure that cannot support modern educational technology; and multiple issues with ADA accessibility.

Those against the issue argued that the community is taxed enough and that people could not afford the burden of an additional levy. They suggested the district make the necessary repairs and renovations, which is now likely to happen.

“We’re just going to have to make some choices now that we know what the election results are,” Fielding said.

Some repairs have to happen regardless, Fielding added, such as repairing the boilers at Warner. Two of the three are inoperable.

According to Fielding, the permanent improvement levy can’t cover all the necessary repairs and the district has money set aside from general fund, which was reflected in the five-year forecast.

Currently, 73.4 percent of the operating budget goes to classroom instruction. That will be “significantly impacted,” Fielding previously said, adding that it could lead to program cuts, staff cuts and/or pay freezes.

“We don’t want to do that,” she said.

XCS officials have said the district is in extremely solid financial shape. The last five years revenue has exceeded expenses, but the district could face deficit spending now that the levy failed. And it could also be forced to come back to voters with an operating levy sooner than what is currently necessary.

By Scott Halasz

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Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.