The Columbus City Schools' board this morning unanimously approved a combined levy and bond package for the fall ballot.
The approximately 6-point-92 mill request - the most modest of four proposals - will cost the owner of a 100-thousand dollar home about $242, an 18% increase in the taxes going to the district. It specifies money for staff and operating costs, deferred maintenance problems, and on-going capitol improvements. Board member Mary Jo Hudson says the package addresses the districts most pressing needs.
"It is tailored to make sure we have more support in the classrooms and more support for our students; both for health and emotional issues. Teacher's aides, nurses, social workers -- and also maintenance. To take care of our buildings and not wait until they are emergencies."
The bulk of the levy request -- 5-point-58 mills - would add 325 staff over the next five years. 1-point-34 mills will be used to issue bonds for buildings. Half a mill of that will pay for on-going capitol improvement projects, money that used to be taken out of the operating budget. Treasurer Stan Bahorek says the remaining money will tackle projects that have been postponed in recent years...
"It's really that up-front shot in the arm of about $125 million to address deferred maintenance needs, ones that have been deferred over time that needed to be done a long time ago that we didn't have the funds to do. So now we'll have that chunk of money to address roofs, and parking lots, and other type of facilities that are in need of repair"
In 2013 voters overwhelmingly rejected a combined bond and levy request. Board Vice President Michael Cole says the district has worked hard since then to restore confidence.
"Three years of hard work... hard work of accountability, hard work of strengthening curriculum, hard work of ensuring transparency in the district... even looking at safety measures and how we improve that. We made some significant strides, being a statewide benchmark for accountability And that's not just us that, it's not just hyperbole; that actually comes from the state auditor, saying that we are a benchmark organization of accountability."
Board members rejected tacking an additional 1 and a half mills for new school construction onto the request, postponing that discussion until the district has had time to process community input gathered this year.
The district is also considering additional revenue strategies. At Thursday's special meeting the board heard a presentation about 13 buildings or parcels of land that could be sold or leased.