Schools to seek bond issue

By Jon Moffett

The project would involve two new buildings and have all the district’s schools on a central campus.

AUSTINTOWN — The Austintown school board unanimously passed a resolution to place a 2.9-mill, 37-year bond issue on the November ballot.

Richard Zimmermann, president of the board, said 2.4 mills will go toward constructing new schools, and the remaining 0.5 mill will go toward a permanent improvement fund, which can only be used for improvements and maintenance ofthe schools.

Approval by voters “will pave the way to have new schools and technology for every student, grades K-8,” he said. “It would do a lot for the students, and it would create a flagship of education in Austintown.”

The board voted 5-0 in favor of the bond issue at a special meeting Friday morning, according to new schools Superintendent Vincent Colaluca. If approved by voters, the bond issue would help fund the district’s 53 percent share of a $50 million facility-expansion project.

A bond issue is a loan for a school district to finance large projects, such as the construction of new facilities.

Community meetings will be scheduled starting in September to provide more information to voters.

Zimmermann said he understands the financial crunch but urges voters to consider the bond.

“I know times are bad, but on average, this will cost residents of Austintown about $5-$6 a month,” he said. “I believe people in Austintown will pass this because we’re only talking about a couple cups of coffee or a package of cigarettes a month to ensure that students in Austintown get the very best.”

The project would involve two new buildings and have all the district’s schools on a central campus. The new buildings would be constructed on the locations of Frank Ohl Intermediate and Watson Elementary schools. The new schools would house kindergarten through second grade in one building and third through fifth grade in the other.

The project is part of a $1.4 billion plan approved by the Ohio School Facilities Commission, which will benefit 32 school districts statewide.

The state has allocated and will provide 47 percent of the costs, and the district will be responsible for the remaining 53 percent, more than $26 million, according to OSFC documents.

These projects are contingent upon local funding being approved by voters. Colaluca said by passing the bond issue, the community is taking steps toward a better academic future.

“This bond sets us to have schools for the 21st century. When we built the middle school, it was completely funded by the community. So we’re telling them let’s build another school for K-2, and the state will build us another school for 3-5.”

Many of the district’s current buildings have not received significant upgrades since their construction. Woodside (1946), Lynn Kirk (1958), Lloyd (1955) and Watson (1961) Elementary schools and Frank Ohl (1961) would be demolished if the project is completed.

The second order of business for the board Friday was officially naming Colaluca as superintendent. He received a three-year contract that will pay him $95,000 annually.

Colaluca spent the past three years as director of curriculum with the district and replaces Doug Heuer as superintendent effective today. Heuer was named superintendent of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights School District last month.

Colaluca received his bachelor’s degree in sports management from Youngstown State University. He also received his degree in education from YSU and his master’s degree from Ashland University.

“I’m just happy I get to work in the community and be involved with such great teachers, faculty and staff,” Colaluca said. “I’ve been here for three years, and we’ve built a nice team. ... I’m glad to be in charge of it.”

Colaluca and his wife, Lisa, and their two children, Dante, 10, and Ana, 6, reside in Boardman.

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