AUSTINTOWN State program to pay 39% to repair schools

A 3.9-mill, 26-year school bond is to appear on the ballot in November to cover the rest of the renovations.
AUSTINTOWN -- To Raymond Jaminet, it's like offering a person $100 worth of groceries for just $60.
"I think everybody in here would take that deal, and I think everyone in the community would take the deal," Jaminet, a Youngstown architect, told a group of around 50 local residents Thursday night in the Austintown Middle School cafeteria.
Jaminet was comparing the hypothetical grocery deal with the real-life offer the state has made to the Austintown school board under the state's Expedited Local Partnership program.
The program calls for the state to pay 39 percent of the cost of bringing Austintown schools up to state standards.
Local sources: The rest of the money would come from local sources, like the 3.9-mill, 26-year school bond issue that is slated to appear on the ballot in November.
The meeting allowed school officials to discuss the bond issue with local residents who would serve on the bond campaign committee.
The school board is slated to have a first reading Monday of the resolution to put the bond issue on the ballot. The bond issue would create about $32 million to pay for the construction of a new junior high school and the renovation of Frank Ohl Middle School.
If the bond issue passes, the owner of a $100,000 home in the township would pay an additional $59.72 in property taxes every six months.
Total cost: Superintendent Richard Denamen said the total cost of bringing all Austintown schools up to code could be $70 million. Under the state program, about $42 million would have to come from local sources.
Denamen said he expects the state money to be available beginning in 2009.
"The ELPP allows us to get money for our efforts," Denamen said.
Those efforts could include the construction of a new junior high school to replace Austintown Middle School, which was built in 1916 and is in need of repair, Denamen said.
Denamen showed residents pictures of wiring hanging from ceilings, debris falling from walls and water leaking from the school's roof.
"These aren't slides that were taken 20 years ago. They're not fictitious; they're for real," he said.
Proposal: Jaminet has proposed constructing a 121,260-square-foot junior high school on the southwest corner of Raccoon Road and Falcon Drive to replace Austintown Middle. The estimated cost is $15.7 million.
Austintown Middle could be sold or torn down if the new building is constructed.
Some of the residents who attended said they felt the new building was needed to address the structural problems at Austintown Middle.
"I taught in this building. I know what it's like," said Lynda Molnar, a North Jackson resident who worked as a teacher at the Austintown Middle for eight years. Austintown resident Mark Leger added that he felt the board could save money by constructing the new school.
"A facility of this age, you just pump a lot of money into it," he said.
Jaminet said if the bond issue passes in November, the new school could be open in August 2004.
The renovations to Frank Ohl and the construction of the new junior high also could lead to realignment in the school district. A proposed realignment plan calls for all students in grades four through six to attend Frank Ohl, and all seventh- and eighth-graders would attend Austintown Middle School or the new junior high.
Committees: A group of school officials and local residents created the plan in April 2000.
At the end of the meeting, Denamen asked residents to sign up for committees to help run the bond issue campaign. The committees that will be set up are for finances, voter research, publicity and election day activities.
The committees are expected to meet each week until November to discuss the bond campaign. The first meeting will be at 7 p.m. next Thursday at Fitch High School.

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