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Proposed bond would pay for half of new Fitch High School

Published: Mon, April 14, 2014 @ 12:05 a.m.






Austintown School District officials have said over the past few months it would be cheaper to build a new high school rather than renovate, but some residents question the need to replace a building that is 50 years old.

The board of education voted in January to put a 4.1-mill bond issue on the May 6 ballot to raise funds to build a new Fitch High School. The state has awarded the district $31 million, 47 percent, of the estimated $68 million project.

The other $46 million would be raised through the bond and includes a Locally Funded Initiative, $9 million, to pay for renovations to the gym, auditorium, football stadium, and classrooms by the auditorium. The initiative goes strictly to renovation of items not covered by the state’s guidelines, making the district pay for those improvements to bring those parts of the high school up to current building-code standards.

The total cost of the project is $77 million.

Levy committee chairwomen Lori Gavalier and Kim Smrek hosted two town-hall meetings in Fitch’s auditorium, March 11 and April 3. Both meetings featured an informational section and a question-and-answer segment from a “panel of experts.” Those panels were not the same at both meetings, but the question-and-answer section was more open due to fewer attendees at the second meeting.

Gavalier and Smrek fielded questions from residents about concerns related to board of education members and district administrators. “We have been trying to convey that we are voting on the building,” Gavalier said.

She also said she has met with people opposed to the bond. “It seems we end up very in agreement that the numbers speak for themselves economically.”

Superintendent Vincent Colaluca said there will not be a third town-hall meeting, and they are beginning to look at mass mailings and phone calls to residents.

During the campaign for the issue for a new Fitch, the only funds available have been those raised by the Austintown Levy Committee and volunteers. “If we had a lot of money, we would do big [campaigns],” Colaluca said.

The 37-year bond acts as a loan and will cost a resident with a home value of $100,000 about $144 a year.

Austintown residents are still paying off the bonds for the building of Austintown Middle School and Austintown Elementary and Intermediate schools. AMS is nine years into its 2.9-mill bond for 27 years, while the bond for AES and AIS is three years into a 2.4-mill bond over 37 years. An added 0.5 mill bond to the AMS bond goes toward maintenance upkeep at newly built buildings, so Fitch would have upkeep paid for by taxpayers.

The OFFC mandates that anyone building a new structure using its funds must come up with a maintenance plan, a concern of residents at town-hall meetings.

Residents at the forums raised the issue of renovating versus building new. Gavalier said the cost to renovate would be more than $37 million, including about $3.8 million in trailer fees, about 58, to house the students during the building renovations.

The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission toured Fitch in January 2013, however, and rated the school 73 on a 100-point scale. Any rating over 66, the OFCC recommends to build new instead of renovate. Last summer, the OFCC announced it had awarded Fitch 47 percent, or $31 million, toward the total cost.

Colaluca and district officials told the crowd at the April 3 town-hall meeting that the district did not have the funds to place the ballot on a special ballot in August if it fails to pass May 6. The reason is because the district can only use funds raised by the levy committee to place it on the ballot, a $30,000 expense, and cannot use general fund money. The district has a deadline of May 7, the day after the election, to put the bond on the special Aug. 5 ballot.

If the bond fails to pass before August’s special election, the state funds go into a lapse phase. That means they no longer will be guaranteed to Austintown, and Gavalier said it would go to the next school on the state’s list.


1janeyblue3(83 comments)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

Please call me,so I may express exactly my thoughts of you thieves. Your junk mail will be marked RETURN TO SENDER.

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2youngstownsteve(81 comments)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

I will not vote for another Austintown School levy until Colaluca is fired and sent back to Boardman and the district puts an end to frivolous spending and encouraging retired administrators to "un-retire" and double dip. Also, Colaluca should reimburse the district the $16,000+ the district played to investigate his petty fight with a board member. Wake up Austintown - SAY NO TO THIS LEVY!!!!!!

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3HenryTheBear(23 comments)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

so everytime the taxpayers pay off a school, a couple years later they'll try to build a new one? I would not vote for this. A bunch of children run that district right into the ground.

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4nojimbo(257 comments)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

A miracle if this gets 30% of the vote. Why not day care centers? We need a levy for pre schools.

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5walter_sobchak(2418 comments)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

I don't have a horse in this race since I live in Canfield but, being an engineer, I can tell you that I would never recommend renovating a school such as Fitch. Once you start to renovate, you have to meet all of the newer building codes. While my area of expertise, structural engineering and building loads, haven't changed all that much in 50 years, the other areas of the building code have changed dramatically. It is especially true with respect to HVAC, mechanical, and electrical codes. Not to mention, depending on the existing building construction "type" under the building code, it is likely that any renovated structure would need a sprinkler system to protect the building, which is costly to install. I would also think that this may be the reason that additional funds are required to address the gym and auditorium. It may possibly be barrier-free design, elevators, additional restrooms, etc. All I know is, the newer building codes have added significant cost to all construction projects. However, I can tell the Austintown people one thing for sure. The existing Fitch HS is far better than Boardman HS, which is an embarrassingly poor. That being said, I sure would hate to pay any more taxes until the state of Ohio revises the school funding issue.

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6lajoci(648 comments)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

Good luck, Austintown!

Like so many other communities in our Valley of the Ancient Ones, your little town will need all the luck it can get for it's battle against the hide-bound forces of darkness and ignorance who are really quite content to see this region slouching toward oblivion, because they have no skin in the long-term game, no horse in the race -- they aren't in it for the long haul.

Their kids have grown and moved on, and they fail (due to their egocentric myopia) to see what's in it for them.

Too bad. Public education is one of the bedrock institutions in a democracy, and certainly, in many, many ways, the local school system is the focal point of the community.

But these troglodytes have no concept of how a school enhances the quality of life in a community, and, therefore, the value of everything in it. To these little people, schools are not assets, but, rather, liabilities.

They know the cost of everything, and the value of nothing.

But keep the faith! And fight the good fight!

Hopefully, there are enough voters out there who value education and will behave like adults at the polls.

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7Atowncomm(14 comments)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

There are so many opinions being voiced, and many are not factual.

Many people are objecting to the passage of the bond issue for a new school for personal reasons. Stick to the facts and stop the personal attacks!

Regarding Colaluca and Porter, I do not personally know either man. When people complain about the $16,000 spent on the investigation- shouldn't the guilty party pay for all of the fees? Well, according to pieces that I have read, it's Mr. Porter. How can you fault Colaluca when Porter was found at fault for his conduct? Porter's behavior has been embarrassing to the school district. What kind of example are we setting for the children? Both Porter and Colaluca have children.

Voters, do not let personal opinions or personal agendas determine your vote. Stick to the details of the bond issue. Voting per your personal vendetta will not solve any problems.

You are missing the point-
Do you agree with building a new high school with the state contributing almost half of the cost? Fitch isn't going to repair or replace itself. The tax payers are the bill payers.

I still say, let's rally to Columbus to get more state funding to help pay for our school districts and lessen the burden on tax payers.

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8DSquared(1566 comments)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

Sorry Atowncomm, No rally to Columbus. You folks want a new Fitch High School, YOU build it with YOUR money, not mine or the rest of Ohio;s taxpayers!

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9SolitudeIsBliss(5 comments)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

Austintown, Ohio is asking for 4.1 Million dollars for the next 37 years !!!!
4.1 X 37 = $151.7 Million dollars

The total cost of the project is $77 million.

(So far I have 36.04 (53% of 68 M project) + 46 for renovations = 82.04 which leaves 69.66 Mil unaccounted for)

Note: Fitch Stadium was renovated in 2012 at a cost of $350,00.00

Question: Do you think people from the ghettos of India have 1st rate schools? NO, and yet they somehow seem to be at the top in math and sciences (and US Spelling Bees). Do the kids in places like Rwanda and Kenya have nice schools? That would be a big fat NO !

Take it from me, you don't need a fancy school. All you need is an eager child willing to learn and a teacher ready to teach !

Ask yourself 1 last BIG QUESTION: Have your property taxes EVER gone down????

Read the article, Austintown still has decades to pay for the Middle school and other projects. The well has run dry folks. The cow has no more MILK so get off that teet !

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