September 30, 2014

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Columbia Schools outlines cuts if November levy fails

COLUMBIA — Community members with shell-shocked eyes and parents with weary faces listened with astonishment as Columbia Schools Superintendent Greg Bansek used blunt words to describe what would happen to the district if voters failed to pass the upcoming November levy.

On the heels of a May failure and after four years of continuous cost cutting to the tune of more than $3 million, Bansek told a crowd of 150 people that without the infusion of cash the district would be one year away from state takeover.

“I will tell you Nov. 5 is the most important day in the history of this district, hands down,” he said. “That is the day this district will change one way or another.”

Should the levy pass, the district will not see any additional cuts.

“I know everyone wants to look at this issue and say if we pass it how much money will we have to bring back everything we have lost, but we can’t forget we also borrowed $650,000 last year just to stay in the black. School districts aren’t supposed to do that,” said board member Steven Moore. “So there will be no more cuts, but we will have to pay that money back and try to start saving something, too.”

But failure — Bansek barely wanted to say the word — will mean more drastic cuts, the kind parents likely will react to by removing their children from the district.

“If the levy fails, I will have maybe $400,000 left to cut and it will not be enough,” he said. “We will not be able to make our budget.”

At stake is the loss of busing for elementary and middle school students inside the state minimum of 2 miles, the elimination of all sports and extracurricular activities, including marching band, and the increase of student fees. Outside groups will not be able to use school facilities, as well.

“We want to make our schools community centers, but we’re already having trouble getting buildings cleaned and lawns mowed at this time,” Bansek said.

The cuts, which would take the district to near state minimum standards, would come about because of a history that includes multiple levy failures, years of cuts from the state coupled with a new state budget that offers no relief and thousands of dollars leaving the district as students seek charter school alternatives. It was 2003 when voters in Columbia last passed a tax issue for operating money.

Bansek said the district has coped — staving off state takeover year after year — by cutting the district to the bone. The consequences are felt daily by students.

High school students only have four elective courses and district officials have slashed graduation requirements to reflect the limited offerings. Many high school students have two study halls because of fewer options.

After laying out a stark plan for the future, Bansek implored those in attendance to do the one thing the district needed more than anything — vote for the upcoming levy.

“Other schools that pass their levies are moving forward and we are just gasping for air,” he said.

Parents, many of whom wore T-shirts in support of their financially strapped district, peppered Bansek and board members with questions about what they could do not just with this levy, but also in the future to convince lawmakers to send more money Columbia’s way.

In reply, board president Brenda Buchanan said to keep the pressure on Columbus legislators while also showing local support.

“The personal perspective of how this issue affects you is hard to argue with,” she said. “Maybe those are the arguments that will get through to someone to help them understand we have done all we can do.”

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

If the levy fails:

  •  State minimum busing outside of 2 miles — effective Jan. 15.
  • All sport and extracurricular activities eliminated for 2014-15 school year.
  • Elimination of assistant principal and athletic director for the 2014-15 school year.
  • Elimination of the assistant to the treasurer for the 2014-15 school year.
  • Elimination of kindergarten through fourth-grade music starting with the 2014-15 school year.
  • Elimination of band class and marching band for the 2014-15 school year.
  • Combine Copopa Elementary and Columbia Middle schools’ guidance counselors into a K-8 position.
  • Student district fee to increase to $75 for the 2014-15 school year.
  • No use of facilities by outside groups effective Jan. 15.
  • All buildings will close a half hour after school starting with the 2014-15 school year.
  • Senior citizen breakfasts will be canceled.

If the levy passes:

  • Evaluate all elective courses with plans to bring back two or three for the 2014-15 school year.
  • Reinstate gifted program at Copopa Elementary and Columbia Middle schools.
  • All custodial, maintenance, mechanic and special education secretary staff returned to eight hours effective immediately.
  • Return of limited high school busing effective Jan. 15.
  • Immediate addition of two lunch monitors at Copopa Elementary and Columbia Middle schools.
  • Immediate return of seasonal maintenance.
  • Return of some extracurricular and co-curricular activities for the 2014-15 school year.
  • Immediate return of outdoor education, C-squad and freshmen boys basketball.
  • Immediate return of district mail courier.
  • Pay to participate for athletics and band reduced to $150 with no family cap starting with the 2014-15 school year.
  • Immediate free use of buildings by community groups during regular custodial hours.
  • District student fee to remain $50.


  • LAB1660

    It is abundantly clear that you failed to report that the $650,000 money which was borrowed was in the form of Tax Assisted Notes floated before the May 2013 levy, which failed miserably. Yes, that money has to be paid back. Looks like Mr. Bansek went to the payday loan company because you NEVER balance your budget by creating more debt for yourself. Yet, this is who is teaching our children basic arithmetic. We should all be concerned because at least one of the people on the Columbia levy committee has filed a bankruptcy (this is public record) and
    again, I do not believe that jungling a cup for money is always the answer to preservation of a school district. Columbia residents must remember that when they voted to build the Copopa addition, calculated in that figure, and disclosed to the voters, was a dollar amount slated for the demolition of the old Copopa building. The building was frightfully declared a danger to the children, so spoke some of the parents who wanted the new building. Old Copopa is in use and the school district failed to disclose that in the summer of 2012, it had been broken into and vandalized, yet my husband and I know someone who was summoned to do clean-up as a result of that B&E and vandalism. They failed to report that to the sheriff’s department. What message does that send again? So, since Columbia Schools is unable to calculate appropriately and wastes money by giving raises to the superintendent and treasurer upon passage of a levy which is supposed to be used for building construction and maintenance, I cannot support this levy and hope that others see into their wasteful ways, too.

    • Judy

      When is it ever going to stop??? People are tired of paying more taxes, find another way to fund our school systems in this state instead of always coming to us for the money. More & more people are unemployed in this state and have no extra money for tax levies….

      • LAB1660

        Thank you for your support, Judy. You, too, have seen the exact most obvious reason for the inability to support these levies. The levies won’t stop until the funding is fixed in Columbus and after having been down there for just such a mission, it is clear that nobody has any answers on how to change school funding. One thing is obvious, though and that is whether it comes from local sourcing or whether it comes from Columbus, it still comes from our pockets in the end, because we are our communities and we are Ohio. We are the “they.” Looks like if this levy passes in Columbia that my husband’s senior citizen homestead exemption will be eaten alive and more.

        • Judy

          You’re welcome. We are just tired of always paying and bailing out our school systems. If you look at the pie shape graph of school districts, 70% goes to salary, 20% to their benefits and the rest for our kids. Don’t think this is fair to our children because they are the one’s that suffer. How about not take a raise for a few years, (teachers & administrators) how about pay for your healthcare like I have for the last 20 years… Something is drastically wrong with all school systems across this state.

          • ha

            actually, nothing is wrong with the school systems . . . where the people are willing to pass the levies! just keep on keeping on, lorain county – and good luck competing with those who live in districts where people value education.

          • LAB1660

            ha, money is not about how much a person values education. Value of education starts in the home. So is the value of morals. Those two fundamentals should then be carried into the schools with the students and parents partnering with the schools. Schools are now a social welfare center for those who relegate their parenting duties to others so easily they have forgotten the true duty and calling of parenthood. Children are successful if they are first given a good foundation at home and are encouraged to succeed academically. Parents who are dissatisfied with their school districts usually find another means of educating their children or supplementing their public school studies. Columbia has a loud cadre of parents who demand more and more out of a community that is tapped out financially. We need more of our parents taking more care to see that the children’s studies are attended to, not their sports schedules.

  • Josh Kohler

    just out of curiosity, how much land does columbia school district own? i know they used to own quiet a bit of land and still cried broke. land that was leased out or rented? i may be wrong. just sounds to me like they just want to keep up with strongsville.

    • LAB1660

      They have allegedly sold one of their parcels (Redfern Road). Don’t know for how much, but it won’t make a dent into their deficit. There is a parcel they own on Capel Road. The third parcel is the site where the old Copopa Elementary building is located. They bought a piece of property on West River Road for over $500,000 which was used for the addition to the middle school/elementary school complex. They had the money for that purchase in the general operating funds but cried broke to the district about not having enough funds back then. I don’t think it’s necessarily Strongsville they want to keep up with, nor is it Olmsted Falls; it’s about providing a private school style of education at taxpayer expense so these children can enjoy their small school cozy atmosphere at whatever cost it may be to the community.

  • concernedcitizen

    Welcome to Midview! However, the levy finally passed and they still cut@

    • LAB1660

      Well, as of April 1, 2014, Columbia Local Schools cut their bus service to the high school even after the people passed the levy. Must be all those law suit payments they have to make because of bad management and bad hiring practices.

  • flyboySR20

    After reading the above cuts, I don’t see a problem. None of these cuts will affect the state’s requirement for the state graduation test. They’re all extra-curriculars! What’s the big deal? If the parents want these kids to have anything over and above the state requirement, all they have to do is write a check. Oh, I get it! They don’t have the money to write the check so they want the community to write the check for them. Isn’t that kind of like giving them a blank check, signed, and let them fill in the amount? I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t work for me. Isn’t it funny how schools never have any money? Columbia just built a brand new addition onto a building and now all of a sudden they’re “scraping by” and look ready for state receivership? Boy, that sounds like really bad planning to me. But, Columbia is no different from any other school district anywhere in the country. They’re always broke. They never have enough. Well nothing’s ever going to change at the state level if we just keep giving them money. The state legislature knows what has to be done; they just don’t have the guts to tell the people of Ohio that if you had the kids, you’re going to pay a lot of money for them K-12 and it’s all going to be on their shoulders, just like child support, because really it is in the truest sense of the word. So, if your kids’ K-12 education has a total cost of $100K, you’re going to pay that money until it’s paid off, just like a child support arrearage. Ouch! But, that’s fair. Why should I pay for someone else’s kids? I don’t have any kids.