State assistance for Windham schools hinges on levy

By Heather Condley Record-Courier staff writer Published:

Many school officials only dream about brand new, million-dollar school buildings and renovations, but the Windham school district is one small but significant step away from making that dream a reality for the more than 1,260 students enrolled in the district as well as teachers and administrators.

The district is set to receive $20.6 million from a state building assistance program designed to replace and repair rundown and outdated buildings in school districts ranking in the bottom 10 percent in terms of wealth. Windham is ranked as the state's 11th poorest school district, and is one of only 19 districts in Ohio to receive the much needed help.

However, to guarantee the money, voters in the district must approve a 23-year, 2.83-mill bond issue at the Nov. 4 general election to raise $927,000 in matching funds.

"Basically, this is the chance of a lifetime," Superintendent Vincent Frammartino said. "This is very important for the district. It will give the district the latest, most modern buildings."

The project will include the removal of Katherine Thomas Elementary School, built in 1942, with a new elementary school to be erected in its place. A new high school will be built, and the old high school, junior high school and East Elementary School will undergo renovations.

The oldest section of the high school, which now houses the administration offices and a gymnasium and was built in 1927, will be demolished. Construction could be completed as soon as August 2000.

The 2.83-mill bond issue is divided into a 2.33-mill bond issue that will be used for construction and additions and a half-mill levy for maintenance of the building programs.

School officials are stressing the point that all of the money generated from the bond issue must go toward the project and can't be used for other expenses, such as salaries, Frammartino said.

Residents in the district are currently paying on a five-year, 2-mill permanent improvement levy that is set to expire in 1998. Frammartino said that the Board of Education has already agreed to cancel that levy if voters approve the new bond issue in November.

This being the case, if voters choose to support the bond issue they will only be paying an additional 0.83 mills per year, Frammartino said.

"The 2-mill will be dropped immediately in January when the bond issue money will kick in," he added.

Residents whose property is assessed at $30,000 will pay an additional $8.72 per year; property assessed at $50,000 will cost an additional $14.50 per year while a resident whose property is assessed at $100,000 will owe an additional $29.05 per year, according to Frammartino.

School officials are holding a number of public meetings to educate voters about the bond issue and are sending out mailers to each resident.

"We're working very hard to inform the public about what we're trying to do and what the cost is going to be," Frammartino said. "I hope that the entire community will get behind this and vote for it. It's a great opportunity for the children."

Board members agree, and some say that the building program is one of the most exciting things that has happened within the district.

"I find it very exciting. It's all very positive," said board member Marilyn John.

Board member Truzetta Johnson said that one of her major focuses as she faces re-election is the project.

"It's a community effort, and everyone is doing their small part to make it a success," she said.

The board is holding a public hearing about the bond issue at 7 p.m.

Thursday at the Windham Township Hall.

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