December 18, 2014

Elyria
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Columbia Schools to try for levy again

Columbia Schools will seek a levy in November after Tuesday’s levy rejection.

“There’s no way for us to move forward, from a financial standpoint, without new money,” Superintendent Graig Bansek said after Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting. “If the levy fails in November it will be devastating to this community.”

Bansek said the new levy will likely be the same amount as the 5.5-mill, five-year property tax levy  rejected Tuesday 806 to 640, a 56 to 44 percent margin, according to unofficial election results. If passed, the levy would’ve raised $1.06 million annually and cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $187 annually.

Bansek said the 1,000-student district — designated excellent with distinction by the Ohio Department of Education for the past five years on the annual state report card — has been forced to make substantial cuts in the last four years. Bansek said when he was hired in 2009, the annual budget was about $12.8 million. The current budget is $10.4 million, and it will shrink to $9.3 million in 2013-14 as the board makes cuts due to the rejection and a previous shortfall.

About $618,000 in cuts will be made at the end of the school year next month. About 20 employees, including seven teachers, are part of the cuts, which include eliminating junior varsity basketball and football cheerleading, middle school and high school track and junior varsity golf. Another $514,000 in cuts will be made in July because of the rejection. They include three teacher layoffs, reduced hours for custodial and maintenance staff and eliminating the drama club, freshmen boys basketball and high school busing.

Bansek said he’s frustrated at deep cuts in school funding by the Republican majority Legislature when it has made huge cuts to corporations and Ohio’s wealthiest individuals in the last several years. He said Columbia Schools is getting no additional money in the proposed budget of Gov. John Kasich “They’re not taking care of all of the schools. It’s only certain schools,” Bansek said of the Legislature, which critics say have shorted poorer school districts while bolstering wealthier ones in communities that traditionally vote Republican.

“People’s tax dollars pay for children to go to private schools or charter schools instead of the public schools which people pay their property taxes for,” said Brenda Buchanan, board president. “They don’t have to adhere to the same strict accountability that a public school does. And that’s not right.”

Buchanan said she hopes voters will understand the playing field isn’t level for public schools and approve the November levy.

“We need to get the word out to more parents,” she said. “We’re really going to make a concerted effort to get the facts out to as many people as we can.”

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.