Columbiana schools bond issue fails again

COLUMBIANA – The city school district won more people over this time around, but it still wasn’t enough.

On Tuesday, Columbiana voters defeated the $4 million bond issue being sought for South Side Middle School.

Victory for the bond issue was just shy of 129 votes – a significantly smaller margin than the first time around last August when voters defeated the additional property tax by a large majority.

The 1.237-mill bond would have generated the $4 million in tax revenue over 29 years for refurbishments at the middle school.

Of the 1,629 votes cast in Columbiana and Mahoning counties, 750 approved the tax and 879 opposed, according to complete but unofficial results.

The school district spans both counties.

District Superintendent Don Mook and bond committee co-chairs Dani Clancy and Richard Hura were encouraged by the amount of people who supported the bond this time around, but are concerned for the future in the face of its failure.

“Our group is disappointed,” Mook said of bond supporters, and specifically the committee chairs. “We did a tremendous job getting out information. We were out there, available. We worked very hard getting information out. It’s unfortunate because the board and myself and the administration have to determine what to do next.”

A majority of the tax revenue was already targeted for replacing the outdated leaky roof over the building on Columbiana-Waterford Road.

The building, which houses roughly 300 students in grades 5-8, was constructed in the 1960s.

Now that the bond has been rejected the district will need to spend operational money fixing the roof at one time or in phases, Mook said.

“I know the board is highly considering not closing the building but spending general fund dollars to fix the roof,” he said.

The building was already targeted for demolition by the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission – a project that would have cost significantly more than the repairs, according to Mook.

He added that spending general fund money means an operational levy will most likely be needed in the future.

Clancy said the bond’s defeat is a “shame” and a “sad day for our community, our schools and our children.”

“The board of education is now going to have to look and make some hard decisions based on this outcome because people just weren’t willing to invest such a little bit of money into our kids’ future,” she said.

Taxpayers were looking at an increase of $18.83 a year on a $50,000 home and $37.67 a year on a $100,000 home.

While Mook and Clancy stressed the bond issue would obviously benefit the students, it wasn’t just about them, however.

Repairing the middle school has a direct result on the area’s property values, they said.

“I think people don’t realize that when schools fail, the community fails … I think that people move to Columbiana because you can get a beautiful home at a reasonable price and your taxes are lower as opposed to other areas. I think that’s always a hard point to overcome. I don’t think people are looking at the bigger picture,” Clancy said.

Mook said taxpayers who voted against the bond issue are sending the message they “really don’t care what happens” in the local schools. “We’re going to do everything we possibly can to maintain the progress we can for our kids. As long as I’m superintendent of Columbiana schools we are going to put our best foot forward for our kids every day. What I can’t promise is we’re going to have top notch schools. That’s up to them, up to the voters,” he said.

Hura’s only comment Tuesday evening was that he wished to thank those who supported the bond.

“There was a vast number of people who voted yes and that shows they have pride in our community and our schools. I want to thank them,” he said.