CUYAHOGA FALLS — School leaders have been working to present the district’s case for Issue 6, a proposed 9.83-mill tax issue, and a meeting on the district’s Master Facilities Plan last week attracted more than 150 to the Cuyahoga Falls High School auditorium.
"Learning today calls for creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking," Superintendent Todd Nichols said at the Sept. 24 forum. "Our efforts to infuse these skills are hampered by our aged facilities. The cost of operating and maintaining our aging buildings continues to rise, having a negative impact on our financial resources."
The sports complex has issues, Nichols said. For example, the soccer team had to play its home game in Wadsworth instead of its home field because of problems with the field.
Nichols added that the district was losing enrollment to other schools, and a complaint he has heard from parents is about the quality of the facilities.
The district’s two mayors also spoke in support of the measure.
Both Silver Lake Mayor Bernie Hovey and Cuyahoga Falls Mayor Don Walters both spoke favorably of the school district and the levy.
"Falls has many great and dedicated teachers," Hovey said. "My wife was a Black Tiger. My children went here."
However, the district was limited by the condition of the buildings, Hovey said.
"You have classrooms that are too hot or two cold, you have leaks in the roof," Hovey said. "Teachers often dig into their own pockets for supplies."
Voters should decide their vote "based on the facts," Hovey said.
"Base it on what best serves Cuyahoga Falls and Silver Lake, what best serves the students and the community," Hovey said.
Walters, through a prerecorded video since he was out of town, said that Cuyahoga Falls is the 15th largest city by population in Ohio. He lauded the progress in the city, including Portage Crossing and the Front Street area, and said the schools were "a missing piece."
"Our public schools are an extremely valuable part of any city's brand," Walters said.
Evan Perrow, who has two children in Silver Lake Elementary School and another at Roberts Middle School, and whose sister, Catherine Perrow, is the principal at DeWitt Elementary School, co-presented the slide show with Nichols that evening.
"Learning has changed, and we need buildings that can help to adapt to that change," Perrow said. "We could bring students back to our district. Not just the private school students but students who left for other districts. It's not just about test scores. It's about creating a better environment."
Nichols said he felt the middle school and high school should be replaced due to the rule of two-thirds.
"If the cost to renovate is more than 67 percent of the cost to rebuild, the recommendation is to rebuild," Nichols said.
Perrow said the Master Facilities commission, which crafted the plan for the sixth through 12 building, took a good deal of inspiration from the new third grade through eighth grade school building in North Ridgeville, and the new sixth grade through 12th grade school building in North Olmsted.
Nichols said having buildings such as this allow for opportunities for older students to mentor the younger pupils.
The facilities plan and levy have not met with universal appeal. Bill Bryan, who currently lives in Lakewood but who graduated from Cuyahoga Falls High School and has rental properties in Cuyahoga Falls, said he felt the district was "building Taj Mahals" and worried about seniors being able to afford the cost.
"A lot of people don't have kids in this community," Bryan said. He added that those with children generally looked for larger homes, with two or more bathrooms. Most of the older housing stock doesn't have that.
Cards with questions on them were taken toward the end of the meeting, submitted by those attending, and a couple of questions were answered.
The slideshow presentation and more from the meeting can be found on the district’s website at www.cfalls.org online.
Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423, email@example.com, or @AprilKHelms_RPC
About Issue 6
Issue 6 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. The bond issue would pay for a $113.8 million in new construction. The state would pay $33.2 million of the cost; 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.
Planned new construction includes the following:
• A new, 370,000-square-foot school building that would house both the district's sixth through eighth graders, and its ninth through 12th graders at where Bolich Middle School and Newberry Elementary School stand now;
• A new 5,000-seat outdoor stadium for football, track and soccer. Officials said the capacity at Clifford Stadium is about 8,000; the decrease in capacity is based on attendance records; and
• A new 1,400-seat performing arts center, with a 200-seat Black Box Theater.