Northland News

Columbus City Schools

District seeks 9.01-mill combination levy Nov. 5

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Columbus City Schools officials will seek more money this fall while simultaneously pledging to cut district expenses.

The school board June 23 voted to place a five-year, 9.01-mill combination bond issue/operating levy on the November ballot.

The issue is expected to raise a total of $515 million -- $340 million for operating expenses and $175 million to support the district's building plans.

Of the money raised for operating expenses, $42.5 million would be earmarked for support of high-performing, nonprofit community schools that are partnered with the district.

If approved, the levy will cost the owner of a $100,000 house an additional $315 per year, or $26.25 per month.

Meanwhile, officials have pledged to cut the budget by $200 million over the next five years, said Jeff Warner, spokesman for the district.

"We haven't started into that," Warner said. "That is one of things we'll be working on shortly."

He said the district has cut $15 million this year, mostly in personnel.

"It was fairly well distributed across the board," he said.

District voters in 2008 approved the district's last request -- a 7.85-mill operating levy and a 1.13-mill bond issue.

CCS enters the levy process after a rough-and-tumble year, losing longtime Superintendent Gene Harris amid a scandal involving data scrubbing, in which employees are accused of manipulating student records to improve their school's standing on state report cards.

Harris, who retired July 1, was replaced by J. Daniel Good, an interim superintendent making $195,000 on his one-year contract.

Good said in the vast number of meetings he has attended, people do want accountability, assurances that similar scandals won't occur and more transparency.

But they also seem confident the district will meet those challenges, Good said.

"I think they're ready to put this behind them and focus on what's right for kids," he said.

The district also is trumpeting bipartisan support of the ballot issue.

July 15, Republican Gov. John Kasich, joined by Democrat Mayor Michael B. Coleman, publicly signed into law a bill that requires the district to place a levy on the November ballot that would raise money for both district and charter schools.

The law also gives the mayor the power to sponsor charters and creates an independent auditor.

"I think we've been able to accomplish something locally that hasn't been done in Congress," said Carol Perkins, CCS school board president.

"This is a huge step in terms of a bipartisan relationship."

But Clintonville resident Gus Dahlberg, co-chairman of Clintonville Go Public, said he's not sure whether he'll support the tax issue.

"It's a big ask," Dahlberg said. "It is a larger levy than they were talking about this time last year. That's something I think voters are going to be taking a really strong look at."

Dahlberg said his group, whose mission is to support and enhance the neighborhood public schools in the Clintonville neighborhood, hasn't formally weighed in on the tax proposal.

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