Sycamore voters asked to OK two tax hikes

Friday, October 16, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

MONTGOMERY -- Sycamore school district residents face two requests for tax increases in November, seeking money for renovations to Sycamore's seven schools and to continue existing programs.

The new money will pay for needed space in new gymnasiums, expanded media centers and cafeterias, and more multipurpose rooms. And, supporters say, it will allow the district to maintain its reputation for excellence.

  • A 2.39-mill bond issue would raise $45 million for building renovations. It would cost the owner of a house with a market value of $100,000 an additional $73 in property taxes annually.
  • A 5-mill operating levy would generate $6.45 million annually for the district's daily expenses. It would cost the same homeowner $153 annually in new taxes.
  • "Sycamore has a history of tremendous success academically and extracurricularly," said Les Wells, a Blue Ash parent and co-chairman of the pro-levy committee, Citizens for Sycamore Schools. "We know that success needs to be kept in place. A good school district does drive a desirable community to live in and for businesses to come to."

    A growing enrollment and crowded school buildings, Sycamore officials say, are behind the need for bond money. By 2006-07, Sycamore's enrollment is expected to be between 6,522 and 6,839. The district's enrollment now is 6,279 students.

    Change in plans

    Sycamore's school board originally had planned to use an estimated $7.9 million of the bond money to build a new school to replace 50-year-old Montgomery Elementary School. But the board chose in September to spend instead about $6.7 million to renovate the school, after plans fell through to buy land on Hopewell Road.

    If voters say no to the operating levy, the district faces a $4 million deficit in 2000, Mr. Armstrong said. The board has not specified what budget cuts would be necessary without this operating money, but a reduction in staff size, mainly through attrition, would likely follow a November defeat, Mr. Armstrong said.

    If the bond issue fails, the planned renovations would go on hold, he said.

    If both tax-increase requests fail, the district will drop the bond-issue request and focus on getting the operating levy passed on the next ballot, Mr. Armstrong said.

    Some Sycamore residents who oppose passage of the bond issue have offered an alternative renovation package, which they say will cost taxpayers about $19 million less. They are encouraging residents to vote down the bond issue in November and to tell the board to revamp it before going on the ballot again.

    "People think they rushed it -- we're using the term, "overzealous,' " said Rick Friedman, of Montgomery, who started the group. "People think it's too much money."

    Joan Hauser, a Blue Ash parent who is campaigning for the tax increases, said she hears steady support from most residents. "Parents I talk with are for this -- and desperately for this," she said.

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