Columbiana Council hears pleas for bond levy support

COLUMBIANA Parents of Columbiana School District students pleaded their case about the bond issue to City Council this week, and called attention to a previous discussion on a councilman’s website.

Richard Hura and Danni Clancy, co-chairs of the Columbiana Building Excellence Committee, spoke about the issue on the May 7 election ballot.

They said their presence at council was to get the correct information out to voters since not enough information was put out the last time.

They also said information posted online by a councilman last year misrepresented the bond issue.

“We think it’s vital that you as city council have the facts about the bond

issue that is in front of our community. In the past there was some misinformation. Some of that at the last levy was led by a website that had city council on it. I know you’re not necessarily responsible for that website. We felt it was very important that you have the correct information,” Hura said.

He and Clancy did not refer to the website or the councilman by name during the meeting, however, they verified after the meeting the discussion they were referring to was on Councilman Bryan Blakeman’s personal website,

The heading at the top of the website states that all matters posted are the personal opinion of Blakeman, and not of council.

Council President Lowell Schloneger confirmed that by stating, “I think there was the impression this board did not support the schools because of that website. We want you to know that we have no connection to that website, what is said on it, or the opinions thereof. It wasn’t this board that wasn’t supporting, it was the individual.”

Blakeman had commented on the website last year the bond issue would actually cost taxpayers more than the school district was saying it would.

District Treasurer Lori Posey got involved in the discussion to correct the information and the discussion has since been removed.

Posey said the information Blakeman was putting out was “inaccurate.”

“He was saying it was three or four times what our calculator was showing,” she said of the calculator available on the committee’s building excellence website.

Blakeman was absent from the council meeting and declined to comment when contacted Wednesday, although he did say he supports the district’s attempts at getting out as much information as possible regarding the bond issue.

“I believe the effort to accomplish that is much improved since last August,” he said.

The district first sought the bond last year, and it was largely defeated by voters at the August special election.

The 1.23-mill bond issue on the May 7 ballot will generate $4 million over 29 years and will cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $37.67 a year in taxes, or 10 cents a day.

The owner of a $50,000 home would pay an additional $18.83 a year, or five cents a day. The figures are based on property real estate values.

Money generated will go toward the refurbishment of South Side Middle School.

District Superintendent Don Mook also spoke to council and provided pictures of the school’s needed improvements.

“The South Side Middle School has found itself in deterioration over many, many years,” he said.

He added that the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission targeted the building for demolition, a project that would cost upwards of $12 million.

“We think we can renovate this one for about $4 million,” he said.

As for what happened last year, “I suggested to our board of education that we go for an August bond issue, which was not met well by our community. It was solely my recommendation to our board,” he said.

He went on to say the district went forward with a “non-traditional campaign” at that time because the committee was lacking a treasurer and because they believed the community would show support as a result of what was done at Joshua Dixon Elementary.

The district was able to renovate the school at no cost to taxpayers through the refinancing of the loan taken out to build the high school.

Clancy is now serving as committee treasurer and said about $300,000 has already been donated by parents and staff and went toward the purchase of 200 yard signs advertising the bond.

“We are not here to tell you to vote for it just blindly. We are here to tell you we have the information. We want to be transparent,” she said.

Hura urged council members to talk about the bond issue.

“People selected you to have this position so they trust you and trust your word, and we are just asking that when you hear people talking in town that you would give them this correct information and share it with them in a very open and honest and frank manner,” he said.