Columbiana BOE: Bond would fix South Side first

COLUMBIANA – The city school district made it official Monday that any money generated from a bond issue will be put toward South Side Middle School first.

With Jay Hertel and Tony Roncone absent, the remaining three board members passed a resolution during the special meeting stating the district will only use tax money for facility improvements at the school.

Should any money be left over once those refurbishments are done, they will go back to the voters for input on how it should be spent.

Board members decided to pass a resolution after gathering feedback from voters concerned the money would be put toward extracurricular facilities.

In fact, the resolution to proceed with the bond issue that was passed by the board in January of this year included language stating money generated would be used for “rehabilitating, renovating, remodeling, furnishing, equipping and otherwise improving South Side Middle School, constructing, renovating and equipping related extracurricular facilities, and clearing and improving the sites thereof.”

The resolution passed Monday stated the board “has become aware” that the wording of the Jan. 8 legislation “generated concern …(and) as a result, the board wishes to clarify its position on the matter.”

The clarification was that money from the 1.23-mill bond issue will be put toward South Side first, and any money left over would not be spent until public input is gathered.

Board members had considered last year using a portion of the tax money on the construction of a building near the track behind the school, resurfacing of the track, refinishing of gym floors, and parking lot and sidewalk repairs. Those repairs were not discussed much by board members over several months, however, as most of the focus remained on South Side.

The bond is expected to generate $4 million over 29 years and will cost an additional $18.83 a year in taxes for the owner of a $50,000 home. It will appear on the May 7 ballot.

Superintendent Don Mook said South Side has always been the priority with regard to the bond issue, and that remains unchanged.

With the resolution in place, improvements at other areas cannot happen without voter approval first.

Board members, Mook and Treasurer Lori Posey have said the bond is needed to pay for a new roof at the 50-year-old middle school.

A new pitched roof is estimated to cost between $1.3 and $1.4 million, Mook said, and the remainder of the tax money will go toward other necessary improvements there, including upgrades to the heating and ventilation system, replacement of ceiling tiles and new flooring.

While the roof is only a portion of the estimated costs, he doesn’t expect much, if any, money will be left over.

He explained the roof estimate doesn’t include costs that could be incurred once construction is under way. There is a chance the contractor hired in the future will find more problems once the original roof is torn away from the building, he said.

The $4 million being sought is the figure he and Posey agreed on after looking at the cost of renovations at Joshua Dixon Elementary, he added.

The difference between that project and improvements at South Side is that a new addition was included in the elementary upgrades. Another difference is that project was paid for without tax-payer money, he said.

The roughly $6.8 million project was paid for through refinancing of the district’s debts. It was originally estimated to cost $5 million.

Because the South Side renovations fall under capital improvements a bond issue is one way the district can raise the money through taxes. Capital improvement projects can also be funded by permanent improvement levies.

Bond issue money can only be spent on capital improvements, not operational expenses. Ohio Revised Code stipulates that proceeds from a bond issue can only be used for what the bond was intended for.