October 20, 2014

Elyria
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Columbia Schools levy fails; superintendent calls it his ‘lowest day’

There comes a time in every public school superintendent where they feel like they are losing.

For Columbia Schools Superintendent Graig Bansek, he thought that moment was in the early spring of this year when he had to borrow $600,000 just to get through the school year without running into the red — a big financial no-no for districts. He thought that was rock bottom and voters would approve a tax levy Tuesday.

He was wrong.

“This may be my lowest day as a superintendent,” Bansek said Tuesday night shortly after unofficial election results showed a devastating loss of a 5.5-mill, five-year property tax levy. The issue would have raises $1.06 million a year and cost the owner of a $100,000 home an extra $189.67 annually in taxes, but more importantly it would have plugged the financial hole that continues to leak in the district.

“We tried to show we were being efficient with money, cutting things to reduce the budget,” he said. “Now, we are going to cut $500,000 immediately after cutting $600,000 in March. So in one year we have cut $1.1 million from out budget. We have very few things to offer the kids and now it will be even less.”

While some superintendents speak in generalities about what could be cut if a levy fails, Bansek has been very upfront with voters.

“It was loud and clear what will happen,” he said.

Items on the chopping block include another three teachers, several support staff members, high school busing and popular extracurricular activities like freshman boys basketball, drama club, Power of the Pen at the middle school, outdoor education and the eighth grade annual trip to Washington D.C.

It will be a big blow for a district the size of Columbia. With about 1,000 students, it’s the smallest district in the county.

“Academically, we excellent with distinction with the state as a district, but we will have even less not to offer students,” he said.

Bansek said the likelihood that the levy will go back on the ballot is very strong. A regular scheduled board meeting is set for today and members will likely rehash last night’s loss and figure out where to go next.

“We just can’t survive with out current financial picture,” he said. “I know times are tough, but until our legislators, senators and governor decide to do something about school funding its going to be the same for districts all over the state — districts will have to go down to the bottom before a levy is passed. And, how is that far to students.”

Issue 12

  • What it is: A 5.5-mill additional tax.
  • Duration: 5 years.
  • How much it would have raised: $1.06 million annually.
  • Purpose: Current expenses.
  • What it would have cost: Owners of a $100,000 home would have paid $187.69 per year.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.