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Urbana officials decide on property tax levy

Urbana City Schools board members have decided ask voters to approve a new property tax levy this fall that would raise about $31.3 million to help build new facilities and renovate some of the district’s existing buildings.

District school board members voted earlier this week to move ahead with the 28-year, 7.15-mill levy to put the issue before voters in November. If approved, it would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $250 a year.

Board members debated a handful of options, including an income tax and a combination of income and property taxes, said Charles Thiel, superintendent for Urbana City Schools. But they decided the property tax would be the most affordable option to voters in the long run, and also had the best chance to pass in November.

If approved, the Ohio School Facilities Commission would provide an additional $36.9 million to cover the cost of the of the $68 million project. The district’s facilities are aging and do not have many of the features available at most other districts, Thiel said.

For example, the district needs security upgrades, and some of the district’s facilities are not handicap accessible.

“It’s kind of frustrating and sad our students don’t get some of the things other students in our area get,” Thiel said.

The proposed project would build a new pre-kindergarten through eighth grade building on Community Drive, and demolish a portion of Urbana High School in order to construct a new building to replace it on the same site. The proposal would also allow the district to preserve its historic Castle Building and its existing gym and auditorium.

Preserving the Castle building was important to community members, Thiel said. The building is a part of the district’s history, and could eventually be used for administrative offices or other purposes.

Board members needed to decide how to approach the levy because Wednesday is the deadline to get the issue on the ballot.

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