By THOMAS M. LYDEN
The Columbiana Board of Education voted unanimously to place a $4 million bond issue on the May 7 general election ballot.
Columbiana County Auditor Nancy Milliken estimated the annual property tax levy to be 1.23 mills, meaning that for homes valued at $50,000, property taxes would increase $18.83 per year — totaling $546.07 over the 29-year term of the bond.
A substantial portion of the money would go toward replacing the leaky roof over South Side Middle School.
The remainder of the money borrowed through the sale of the bonds would go toward other permanent improvements at the middle school.
Superintendent Donald Mook said areas of need include: a new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system, an upgraded security system, new ceiling tiles, new floors, and better accommodations for the physically disabled.
The school board last attempted to pass a $4 million bond issue during the special election in August. Volunteers pursued a low-budget electronic media strategy that failed to raise awareness. And the issue went down with over 69 percent of votes cast against it.
This time Mook is planning a more traditional campaign that includes more volunteers, more meetings, and more yard signs. “We don’t want [voters] to feel surprised that we’re doing this,” Mook said. “We want open lines of communication.”
The campaign for the current bond issue will also be volunteer-based because Ohio law forbids schools from using taxpayer money to support their own bond issues.
If voters do not approve the bond issue in May, the board will have to decide the fate of South Side Middle School and its leaky roof.
According to Mook, one option is to continue “limping along” patching the roof and replacing the water-logged ceiling tiles.
Alternatively, the board could use money from its general fund to replace the roof, though that would necessitate taking money away from the services the school normally provides.
Finally, if the leaky roof becomes a safety issue, the board may be forced to close South Side Middle School. If that were to occur, the fifth and sixth grades would be moved to Joshua Dixon Elementary, and the seventh and eighth grades would be moved to Columbiana High School. Squeezing more students into those facilities would cut into space for special education, reading rooms, and computer labs, according to Mook.