Monday, December 1, 2003

Tax increase builds schools


Kenton and Boone replacing, renovating buildings

By Karen Gutierrez
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A frenzy of school construction is taking place in Kenton County this year due to a 5-cent tax increase that breathed new life into stalled projects.

The complete renovation of two 1930s-era high schools, Simon Kenton in Independence and Dixie Heights in Edgewood, will now continue as planned.

Two other aging schools, Twenhofel Middle in southern Kenton County and James A. Caywood Elementary in Edgewood, will be replaced. And Beechgrove Elementary School in Independence will get major improvements.

"It's been a long time coming to Kenton County," says district Treasurer Kelley Gamble.

The school board voted this fall to raise property taxes by a nickel per $100 of assessed value, which adds $50 to the taxes for a $100,000 home. The Kentucky General Assembly authorized the tax, to be used only for school construction, in the 19 fastest-growing counties in the state. In Northern Kentucky, Boone and Kenton counties were the only districts to qualify, and both passed the tax.

In Boone, it will raise about $4.5 million a year and increase the district's bonding capacity to $76 million. The second figure is key. Districts build schools primarily by selling bonds, a way of borrowing from investors. The additional tax gives the districts enough money to pay interest on the debt.

Boone will use its proceeds for a new middle school on Camp Ernst Road, to open in 2005, renovation of Ryle High School, Goodridge Elementary School and Ockerman Middle and Elementary schools, and possibly other new schools.

The architecture firm of Robert Ehmet Hayes & Associates is handling the Boone projects. The Kenton work is divided between Hayes and the Covington firm Piaskowy & Cooper PSC.

In Kenton, the tax will raise about $3 million annually and increase bonding capacity to about $64 million. The district's first priority will be to repair, replace and improve existing facilities.

Dixie Heights High School, for instance, has no track and no soccer field. Now it will be getting both, along with a new stadium. The district offices nearby will be relocated to make room.

Both Dixie Heights and Simon Kenton also will get new lighting and roof systems, which hasn't happened since 1937, says Rob Haney, the district's director of support operations.

School construction

Kenton County

Dixie Heights High School

Start: this spring

Completion: August 2005

 Additional gym

 Renovated auditorium

 New athletic complex

Simon Kenton High School Start: spring

Completion: August 2005

 New theater/multi-media learning center

 New science labs and classrooms

 New handicapped-accessible, secure entrance

 New band and chorus classrooms

New middle school to replace Twenhofel

Start: spring

Completion: August 2005

 Property purchased on Walton Nicholson Pike

 Room for 900 students

 Natural light to boost learning

 Mechanical mezzanines, (like moveable catwalks), above ceilings for easy maintenance of systems

New elementary school to replace James A. Caywood

Start: spring

Completion: August 2005

 Property purchased next to Turkey Foot Middle school

 Room for 600 students

 Turkey Foot bus lot moves to Summit View campus

 Natural light

 Mechanical mezzanines above ceilings

Beechgrove Elementary School

Start: spring

Completion: August 2004

 Eight new classrooms

 New secure entrance and office area

 New family resource center

Boone County:

Goodridge Elementary School

Start: May 2004

Completion: June 2005

 12,000-square-foot additions for office, library, preschool, kindergarten and computer lab

 New finishes, windows, mechanical/electrical and data systems

Up-to-date, secure entry

Ryle High School

Start: May 2004

Finish: June 2005

 27,000-square-foot addition with 19 new educational spaces

 New administrative area with secure entry

Ockerman Elementary School

Start: May 2004

Finish: June 2005

 New administrative area with secure entry, new library, kitchen, preschool

 New HVAC system, windows and finishes

Ockerman Middle School

Start: May 2004

Finish: June 2005

 New administrative area with secure entry, new library, band and choral rooms

 New HVAC system, windows and finishes

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E-mail kgutierrez@enquirer.com




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