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Small crowd presses Austintown board about levy

Published: Fri, April 4, 2014 @ 12:03 a.m.

By Robert Connelly



A smaller crowd led to longer and follow-up questions from residents who came out to hear about a proposed bond to build a new Austintown high school.

Many fewer people attended Thursday night’s board of education meeting than the dozens who came out last month to the first town hall about the proposed 4.1-mill capital improvements bond.

Only 10 to 15 heard school district officials explain why the bond should be approved in the May 6 election, so they were not asked to write their questions on index cards for a moderator to choose from. Instead, residents were allowed to raise their hand and even ask follow-up questions of levy committee co-chairwomen Lori Gavalier and Kim Smrek and district officials.

Three residents in particular had multiple concerns from maintenance to long-term planning for replacement of specific building parts, such as water heaters, to the overall building.

A primary point of contention, however, was when the district knew Fitch needed to be replaced and why that wasn’t communicated better to the public. District Superintendent Vincent Colaluca said the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission toured district schools in 2003 and recommended that Fitch, along with the other schools, be renovated or rebuilt.

According to Vindicator archives, the OFCC announced partial funding for a new Fitch building last summer.

Residents Randi Baun and David Daichendt wanted to know why the district didn’t let residents know years in advance that a new high school would be needed. Daichendt said he met with Gavalier for three hours earlier in the week but continued to ask questions Thursday.

“I believe the numbers support rebuild rather than refurbish. ... The problem I still have is the stewardship of the money and who is in control of it,” said Daichendt, who still hasn’t decided how he will vote on the levy. “This was just kind of sprung on us in the last couple of months. No one in this community had really any knowledge of this endeavor prior to the last couple of months.”

Baun said he came to the meeting wanting to be persuaded to vote in favor of the levy, but he left unsure how he will vote and kept asking for a backup plan if the levy fails.

“I just don’t like getting that sense of maybe getting backed into a corner,” he said.

Colaluca told the crowd the board doesn’t have the $30,000 necessary “without a big donor contribution” to put the measure on an August special ballot before the state funds are no longer guaranteed.

The board voted in January to place the 4.1-mill bond, which acts as a loan for 37 years, on the May ballot.

If approved, the state will provide 47 percent, or $31 million, of the $75 million project. The bond is expected to raise more than $45 million, with $34 million going toward construction costs.

An additional $10 million will go toward revamping the gym, auditorium, classrooms by the auditorium, and football stadium.


1repeaters(314 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

"Colaluca told the crowd the board doesn’t have the $30,000 necessary “without a big donor contribution” to put the measure on an August special ballot before the state funds are no longer guaranteed."
Talk about building a new school while they can't afford the ballot money?? 600-700 open enrollment students...and the property tax stays in their home districts! As per a previous article, rather than right-sizing the district and losing 50 positions, they chose open-enrollment, new schools, and higher taxes on Austintown residents. The question isn't whether to build or re-model? The question should be, 'How much more of a tax burden can I afford, to educate children from other communities, while building all new schools?"
P.S. Don't forget the mandatory 'maintenance levy' when you use state money to build and/or remodel a school.

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2Atowncomm(14 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

To repeaters and zz3, ask why Austintown Schools, like most schools throughout Ohio, have had to go to open enrollment. It involves the state not providing funds as in the past causing less income for school districts while expenses continue to increase. There are recent articles explaining open enrollment throughout the surrounding communities also. I have listened to the board explain why Austintown has open enrollment. There are limits on open enrollment for the number of students accepted. It is helping to keep our school district in the black without eliminating academic programs. The construction of a high school building does not have anything to do with open enrollment. Open enrollment in Austintown, like a lot of surrounding districts, will be here if there is a new high school built or not. It seems that we should be contacting and pressuring our state representatives to change the way they are funding (and reducing funding) to our school districts throughout the state. They are the source of school districts funding changes, reductions and problems.

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3Atowncomm(14 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

To zz3, you obviously have not research the bond issue details. Major systems are in desperate need of extensive repair or replacement per an engineer's inspection, not Colaluca's. Wouldn't you rather receive almost half of the money from the state to construct a new school instead of going back to tax payers or, worse yet, cut academic programs to fund the replacement of expensive systems? The money has to come from somewhere.

I agree, in earnest, that the middle class is over taxed! And we have an opportunity to get OUR MONEY back from the state. I am on a fixed income and am looking at the long-term expenses and where the money will be coming from. The expenses are only going to increase.

I, too, like you, have always lived within my means and I have taught my children to do the same. But at some point, things just wear out; I can attest to that :). General maintenance has been performed on the systems at the high school.

You also speak against open enrollment. It is helping to pay the school district's bills- like it or not. The trend around the state is implementing open enrollment.

Where do you think the school district is going to get the money we need? From the tax payers! And I would like the state to contribute to this. We don't want to have to pay 100% of the costs. It will be more expensive in the long-run.

I wish that we would have better answers to our concerns. By that, I hope that the state starts giving back from the "rainy day" coffers that they have filled!

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