AUSTINTOWN Schools chief sheds light on bond plan

The superintendent answered questions about transportation, construction funding and the new township library.
AUSTINTOWN -- All Lisa Oles wanted was honesty and she feels she got it Tuesday from schools Superintendent Richard Denamen.
"I feel he was honest with us," said Oles, co-chairman of the Austintown Council of the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce. "We were just asking him to let us know [about the upcoming school bond issue]. He did."
Oles and about 20 other residents were in attendance Tuesday when Denamen spoke about the bond issue at a meeting of the Austintown chamber council meeting. The board of education is seeking voter approval of a 3.9-mill, 26-year bond issue on the May primary ballot.
If it's approved, it will allow the board to borrow $32 million to pay for construction of a junior high school and renovation of Frank Ohl Middle School. The junior high school would serve as a replacement for Austintown Middle School, which was built in 1916. It would be built near several of the district's other schools on Idaho Road.
During the meeting, audience members asked Denamen if the township library under construction on South Raccoon Road was a district project.
The Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County is responsible for the library project. Denamen noted it is within walking distance of Fitch and will benefit district pupils.
Funding: Oles said she asked if the district will need additional money for construction in the future if the bond issue passes. Money from the bond issue would count toward a state plan that calls for it to pay 61 percent -- or about $44 million -- of the $72 million cost of bringing the schools up to state code. The state would pay for the remaining 28 percent in about 10 years.
"We want everybody to realize that," Oles said, adding that she also wants township residents to know that the district does not have a contingency plan in place if the money is not available from the state.
Oles also said she asked how the bond issue would affect transportation.
Denamen said that if the new junior high school is built on Idaho Road as planned, it would make it easier for the district to deal with pupil transportation.
He added that according to state estimates on pupil population growth, the district would need an additional 20,000 square feet of space at Fitch for high school students in 2009-2010.

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