XENIA — The Xenia Community Schools Board of Education is organizing a community engagement initiative to help assess the needs of the students and the financial options available to the community to address them.
The goal is to obtain a true community opinion of how to move forward according to school officials.
The initiative, which was formed via vote at the Nov. 6 meeting, comes after the board participated in two public workshops to learn more about the district’s financial health and status related to the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission money for the middle and high schools. Rockmill Financial Consulting President David Conley met with the board to outline what options are remaining for the community to consider. Rockmill specializes in school taxation and facilities funding.
At the workshops, the board was told the OFCC money — approximately $32,00,000 — reserved for Xenia Schools has gone back into the pool to fund other districts because the district was unable to pass a bond issue to pay for its portion of the proposed construction. The money is still available to Xenia, but it has to have the local share before the state will award the money. It is also subject to availability.
The Board heard the remaining options available to the community related to becoming a “lapsed district,”a term that’s used to describe a district that failed within a 13-month period to provide the required local share of funding in order to receive the OFCC dollars.
Those options included: Do nothing and abandon the effort to build new buildings; reduce the scope of the project and reapply for the OFCC money; offset part of the project cost using existing district resources and reapply for the OFCC money, or a combination of two.
The workshops included a detailed analysis of the current demographic and financial standing of the residents in the community. The board heard from Conley that despite the district’s relatively low tax rates, homeowners and local farmers are feeling constrained as a result of various factors. Individuals in Xenia are aging, and many are either on fixed income, receive a portion of their income from a fixed source, or are soon to be on a fixed income, he said.
Additionally, many in the community have experienced declines in their home values and/or declines in their personal earnings. According to Conley, this situation is further exacerbated by a decline in the number of people between the ages of newborn to 64 over the last six years. Overall, people living at or below the poverty level has increased by nearly 11 percent during this time same time frame.
Conley said the Xenia community has overwhelmingly supported the district’s request for levies in the past. Since 1986, nearly 64 percent of the district’s levies have been approved by voters.
“This tells me the community is very supportive of the schools,” Conley said. “Given the results of the bond issues though, it suggests to me the community must be more engaged in determining the scope of the project and the ultimate cost that will be passed on to taxpayers.”
Residents interested in participating in these meetings should call Interim Superintendent Gabriel Lofton at 937-376-2961.
Xenia Daily Gazette news report compiled by Scott Halasz.