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COLUMBIANA COUNTY Voters will decide school issues



Published: Mon, April 29, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



East Liverpool schools would receive $52 million for building additions and renovations.

By NANCY TULLIS

VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU

SALEM -- A controversial countywide sales tax and several school requests are among the ballot issues Columbiana County voters will consider May 7.

County commissioners argue that the 0.5 percent sales tax increase they proposed is desperately needed to provide enough revenue to meet county expenses. The county is short about $2 million of what it must have to make it through 2002.

If passed, the increase would bring in about $3 million annually. But only part of that would be taken in this year because collections would not begin until about July.

Earlier this year, commissioners imposed the 0.5 percent increase. But they withdrew the increase and put the measure on the ballot because they faced a referendum effort.

Should the increase fail, county officials predict layoffs and reductions in services throughout county government. The county already has a 1 percent sales tax on the books. That tax expected to take in about $6.6 million this year.

If East Liverpool voters approve the city school district's $7.9 million bond issue, school officials say they will remove the 2-mill permanent improvement levy now in effect.

With bond issue passage, the school district stands to gain $52 million from the Ohio School Facilities Commission for renovations and additions, district treasurer David Karas said.

He said for each $1 contributed by taxpayers, the district will receive $17.50 from the state.

He said the bond issue also includes a half-mill for building maintenance.

He said with removal of the permanent improvement levy, the net cost of the bond issue to the owner of a $50,000 home will be $38.57 per year.

Other plans

Karas said the state and local money will be used to renovate Westgate Elementary -- which now houses pupils in kindergarten through eighth grade -- into a facility for sixth- through eighth-graders.

The district's high school and three elementaries will see additions and renovations, he added. East, North and LaCroft elementaries will then have kindergarten through fifth grade at each building. Lisbon school officials are seeking a half-mill levy for 23 years for school facilities.

Superintendent Charles McShane said the new levy will generate $2 million and the district will receive $11.5 million from the OSFC for classroom and gymnasium additions at both buildings.

The McKinley Elementary addition will be 8,535 square feet, and the junior-senior high school addition will be 31,717 square feet.

An additional gymnasium at the junior-senior high will provide separate gym facilities for high school and junior high pupils, McShane said.

McShane said the cost to the owner of a $50,000 home in the school district will be $7.66 per year.

The state and local money also will cover the cost of plumbing and heating systems, technology, security and sprinkler systems, and classroom furniture, he said. It also will pay for parking lot improvements at both buildings and playground improvements at McKinley Elementary, McShane added.

Beaver school officials are seeking a new five-year, 1.5-mill permanent improvement levy that will generate $287,375 annually. Superintendent Willard Adkins said the district has not had a permanent improvement levy since 1995.

To be funded

Since 1995, the district has used general fund and open- enrollment revenue to pay for textbooks, buses and other facility improvements, he added.

The permanent improvement levy will cost the owner of a $50,000 home in the district $22.97 per year, Adkins said.

He continued that general maintenance of facilities, technology upgrades, school bus purchases, and building security upgrades are among the items school officials hope to fund with the permanent improvement revenue.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has mandated the district build a sewage treatment plant at the high school. He said the district already has put about $50,000 toward the project and an additional $44,000 is needed to complete it.

Adkins said purchase of a two-way radio system for communication between school bus drivers also is being considered. The bus drivers communicate by cellular phones, which isn't always prudent, he said.

School officials also may consider building new facilities in the future and permanent improvement revenue could be used to purchase land.

Columbiana Schools permanent improvement replacement levy will cost the owner of a $50,000 home in the district $12 per year, Superintendent Patricia Hura said.

School officials will use the $210,000 the levy will generate annually to improve facilities, purchase buses and textbooks, she said.

Roof repairs

Already planned are about $120,000 for roof repair and replacement on portions of the Joshua Dixon Elementary, and $76,000 for roof replacement and repair at South Side Middle School, Hura added. She also said five of the district's nine school buses are more than 10 years old, with the oldest being a 1983 model.

Treasurer Lori Posey said the permanent improvement levy now in effect was first passed in 1982, and generates about $123,000 per year.

Voters defeated the district's request in February. Posey said if the levy is not passed in this year, there will be no collection from 2002 taxes and the district would lose a year of permanent improvement funding.

Posey said if the permanent improvement levy doesn't pass this time, school officials could place it on the ballot during a special election in August or on the general election ballot in November.

tullis@vindy.com




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