Coventry officials placing new levy on August ballot
COVENTRY — Coventry Local Schools Superintendent Russell Chaboudy believes a new high school would be a spirit booster for the district.
According to a poll taken during a community meeting held April 25 at Coventry High School, residents of the district overwhelmingly would support a measure to aid economic recovery in the Portage Lakes area and restore pride in the district.
In fact, 76 percent of the approximately 60 people in attendance indicated they think voters would pass a 5.99-mill levy for the construction of a new high school and renovations to the current high school and middle school in the Aug. 7 Special Election.
The Coventry Local Schools Board of Education originally approved placing a 3.9-mill bond issue and a 0.7-mill permanent improvement levy on the Aug. 7 ballot. This would have funded: renovations at the district buildings; the construction of a new gymnasium at the high school; the demolition of the Erwine Intermediate School building; the purchase of property for tennis courts, basketball courts and a practice field; and a reduction in debt payments. This would have cost the owner of a home valued at $100,000 about $10 a month, according to district officials.
The original plan changed, however, when the state made the district an offer last month that Chaboudy and the board did not foresee, at least not for years, according to district officials.
Chaboudy explained during his presentation the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) — an independent state agency that helps fund the construction of new schools or renovations to existing ones to improve the education experience — is offering the district millions of dollars for a construction and renovation project.
The OSFC ranks school districts based on property-tax value per pupil and uses a formula to offer funding to districts in need of new buildings and/or repairs to current schools, according to district officials.
Coventry was not supposed to get to the top of OSFC’s list for two more years, Chaboudy said. However, he said state Rep. Anthony DeVitis (R-District 43), of Green, learned of Coventry’s deteriorating facilities and decided to appeal to the OSFC on behalf of the district. Chaboudy said he was surprised to learn soon after DeVitis’ meeting with the OSFC that Coventry could receive state funding this summer for a construction/renovation project.
“Our facilities are not that great and have a lot of issues that we need to address,” he said. “This could be a once-in-a-lifetime offer for our school district.”
Chaboudy said the board first considered a $70 million project for the construction of three new schools but decided it was not the right way to go. He explained the district’s share of this project would have been $44 million and required the passage of a 9- to 11-mill levy. The project would have taken five to six years to complete and required all the existing buildings to be torn down. Chaboudy said it did not seem like an appropriate plan, since the district recently invested $1 million in renovations at Turkeyfoot Elementary School and more than $1 million for the high school building.
The board did approve a segmented project, however. This project would allow for the construction of a new high school and gymnasium and renovations to the remaining schools during the next couple of years. Chaboudy said the project would require the passage of a 5.99-mill levy, which would cost the owner of a home valued at $100,000 about $15 a month. Senior citizens 65 and older would pay $11.50 a month. This plan also would allow the district to reduce its current debt. The state’s share of the project is $10 million, he said.
District Treasurer Aaron Butts explained the board is going forward with replacing the current combined issue on the Aug. 7 ballot with a 5.99-mill, five-year, combined OSFC/renovation and permanent improvement issue and has accepted the state’s offer. He said the district has about a year to approve a levy issue to fund its portion of the work or the money will be offered to another school district.
If voters pass the measure, Chaboudy said renovations quickly would begin at the middle school and high school, which would be turned into an elementary school to house kindergarteners through fourth-graders. He added a ninth through 12th-grade high school would begin to be constructed on the Erwine site, after a year of design work is complete. Chaboudy said the middle school would house fifth- through eighth-graders.
“We are confident we can do this and do it correctly,” he said.
Chaboudy explained the goal is to create a campus, complete with three buildings and athletic facilities in close proximity.
Recently, the board cut positions and teaching staff due to budget restraints. The superintendent is hopeful the building project would free up dollars currently used to make monthly repairs to the facilities so teachers could return to work.
Butts said the district currently is in “duress spending” and could save up to $600,000 in the General Fund annually after the project is complete. This savings could cover the salaries for 10 teachers, he added.
“Great school buildings would help us move in the right direction,” Chaboudy said. “If we don’t do something to our facilities, our kids will leave through open enrollment.”
He said levy campaigns are not enjoyable but “something necessary for the community and the kids.”
“I am an optimist, but I think this plan could work,” Chaboudy said.
Those in attendance April 25 had the opportunity to ask questions concerning the plan, and the majority responded positively to the potential project and levy.
Several in the audience agreed the amount Coventry residents soon would save through the township’s new trash aggregation program would afford them the ability to pay for the levy.
“I hope we can take advantage of this,” Chaboudy said. “It has to be these people here who will sell it to friends and neighbors.”
About 70 percent of those in attendance agreed to help with campaign efforts for the election.
The next regular school board meeting is set for May 15 at 6 p.m. at Coventry High School, 3089 Manchester Road.
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