Columbiana schools make case for $4 million bond issue again

COLUMBIANA For the second time since it was defeated by voters in August, Columbiana School District residents were given the chance to learn more about the $4 million bond issue being sought again by the district.

A public meeting was held at the middle school on Monday and drew less interest than the first meeting held in October.

In both meetings Superintendent Don Mook explained the bond issue is needed for repairs at South Side Middle School. If defeated again, the district will have to put operational money toward fixing the leaking roof-a repair that was last estimated to cost upwards of a million dollars, he said.

“We are probably going to pay for a new roof whether we pass the bond issue or not,” he said.

The roof at the 50-year-old school has been leaking for some time, resulting in moldy, sagging ceiling tiles and causing a distraction, as well as a health hazard, for students, he has said.

The building earned an excellent with distinction rating from the Ohio Department of Education in 2010 and 2012 and houses students in grades 5-8. It is the only one in the district without air conditioning and is not handicap accessible.

Mook said the district is competing with other neighboring schools through open enrollment and the condition of the district’s buildings is a major factor in attracting students. “There are a lot of choices for our students and those around us and we want them to choose Columbiana schools,” he said.

Fewer students attending Columbiana schools means fewer dollars in the budget-a budget that has already been stripped of more than $180,000 in state funding cuts, he noted.

Open enrollment has been on an upward trend for the district, however, and Mook believes renovations at Joshua Dixon Elementary play a role in that draw.

The district’s cutting edge technology is another draw for students. “We try to put out the best product we can academically,” he said.

But, if the district has to use operational money to repair the roof at South Side the school board will need to start looking at ways to keep the budget afloat, and that could include cutting programs, reducing class sizes and looking at staffing, he added. “It really depends on what the economic climate is,” he said.

The district currently has a $9 million annual budget and a $2 million carryover balance, but that carryover will be gone within the next two and a half years, according to the five-year forecast. The bond issue would cost an additional $18.83 a year in taxes for the owner of a $50,000 home.