Austin Fast

In anticipation of Election Day, Associated Student Government (ASG) endorsed local Issue 16 in hopes that an energized youth voting bloc will support the levy to rebuild Talawanda High School.

ASG senate unanimously voted Tuesday to support the issue that would enact a 4.7-mill property tax levy on residents.

According to Mary Jane Roberts, chairperson of the Citizens for Talawanda campaign, this means property owners would pay about $12 a month per $100,000 of residential property value.

Roberts disagrees with Oxford residents who believe Miami students should stay out of Oxford politics because they only live in Oxford nine months of the year.

“That is totally wrong, ” Roberts said. “If you are registered here, you have the right to vote on every issue and every candidate.”

Roberts said the district has been trying to fix serious issues at the high school by “putting a band-aid on a broken arm.”

She said the 53-year-old high school building currently has inadequate science and computer labs, outdated wiring and plumbing and is not fully handicap accessible.

Bethany Bowyer, ASG secretary for academic affairs, said she was most struck by the lack of a security system and the portable trailers behind the school that serve as extra classroom space.

Carl Dahlman, Miami geography professor, has a 3-year-old child in preschool at Kramer Elementary. He said he is “all in favor” of the levy and said improvements are vital for Talawanda students.

“Improving a child’s economic prospects starts with education,” Dahlman said. “Educational resources that are out of date are going to fail our efforts to prepare people for a new economy.”

According to Roberts, passage of the levy would allow Talawanda to take advantage of an additional $11 million from the Ohio School Facilities Commission. Roberts said that money would be put toward reconstructing Kramer Elementary.

Bowyer underscored the importance of passing the levy this year to get the extra funding.

“We’re right at the top of the list right now (to receive extra state funds),” Bowyer said. “If it fails, we’ll be put at the bottom of the list and by the time we get back to the top, these funds won’t be there.”

Andrew Ferguson, ASG treasurer, said the passage of the levy would affect the entire Miami community.

“It’s a great opportunity, not only for Talawanda, but also for Miami,” Ferguson said. “Having a good school district would bring in good professors, so this isn’t just for Talawanda, but it benefits Miami as well.”

Roberts admitted many Oxford residents are concerned the current high school building on Chestnut Street would be turned into housing for college students if the levy passed, moving the high school south of town along U.S. Route 27.

However, Roberts mentioned the high school building could be replaced with school board offices or a community center if the levy passes, although there are no definite plans yet.

Some community members have said the extra money required by the tax hike will be harmful to those living on fixed incomes, and the school board should put money toward initiatives other than new construction.

The levy is the sixth attempt since 1986 to get enough funding to rebuild Talawanda High School. Last year a similar levy was defeated 65-35 percent, in 2002 62-38 percent and 65-35 percent in 2000.