CUYAHOGA FALLS — The slate of candidates and issues in the fall will include a proposed 9.83-mill tax issue for the Cuyahoga Falls City School District.
The school board voted 4-1 to place the issue on the ballot at its Aug. 1 meeting. The resolution sends notice to the Summit County Board of Elections requesting the levy be placed on the ballot.
Board member David Martin cast the dissenting vote. He could not be reached for comment by press time, but in previous meetings expressed concern about having a bond issue and operating levy combined into one, and a wish to include more towards a permanent improvement levy.
The tax issue would be divided three ways:
• A 4-mill levy for the district’s operating budget, that would be effective for 10 years and would raise around $3.1 million a year;
• A 5.33-mill, 36-year bond issue that would generate about $80.6 million; and
• A 0.5-mill continuing permanent improvement levy. The funds from this levy would be put in a maintenance fund for the new construction.
If the levy is approved, the entire issue would cost homeowners $344 per $100,000 of their home’s value each year.
The bond issue would go to pay for a $113.8 million plan to combine students in sixth through 12th grades into one school building. The state would pay $33.2 million of the cost. The bond issue would fund both the local share of the co-funded part and the locally funded initiatives to build a new school building, Nichols said. The co-funded part of the plan totals $89.7 million — $56.5 million, or 63 percent of the cost, would be generated locally; $33.2 million, or 37 percent of the cost, would be paid for by the state. The locally funded initiatives are about $24 million, which brings the total cost of the facilities project to $113.8 million.
Superintendent Todd Nichols said that the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission "has assessed our buildings and recommended they be replaced due to their condition and/or age."
"Enrollment has declined by 3.8 percent the last 10 years," Nichols said. "Whereas, Ohio public school enrollment has declined approximately 7 percent over the last 10 years. Over the last couple years, students are leaving the district to attend newer facilities in other districts. The cost of operating and maintaining our aging buildings continues to rise, having a negative impact on our financial resources.
"Our buildings were designed for learning in a different era," he added. "Learning today calls for creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking. Our efforts to infuse these skills are hampered by our aged facilities. Inequities exist across the district. Classroom sizes vary in the same grade levels creating disparity in learning."
Nichols pointed to the recent developments with Portage Crossing and downtown Cuyahoga Falls. These improvements, he said, "make it the right time to revitalize the school district."
The first phase of a two-phase project recommended by the district’s Master Facilities Committee includes the construction of a proposed new sixth through 12th grade school building. Newberry Elementary and Bolich Middle schools would be demolished. Nichols said the building would be 350,000 to 370,000 square feet.
"It’s the responsibility of the board to assess needs and ask the community for their financial support of those needs," said Board member Anthony Gomez. "That is exactly what four members of the board did by placing this bond/levy combination on the ballot. I look forward to finding out our community’s response to our levy request on Nov. 5 and continuing to be part of the positive progress in the Cuyahoga Falls Schools."
No decisions have been made regarding segment two of the Master Facilities Plan, which would cover the district’s pre-kindergarten through fifth grade buildings, Nichols said. A Master Facilities Planning Committee will be reconvened on the elementary buildings plan "as Segment One comes to fruition," he said.
Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @AprilKHelms_RPC