Coventry district bond issue fails
District to consider options in coming weeks
COVENTRY — A slight majority of voters in the Aug. 7 Special Election declined to support a request for a combined 5.99-mill levy and bond issue to fund construction of a new school and improvements to others in the Coventry Local Schools District.
According to unofficial results from the Summit County Board of Elections, 51 percent of voters were against Issue No. 4, of which 4.89 mills would be used for the bond, which would have extended 34 years, and 1.1 mills for a permanent improvement levy. There were 1,715 votes against and 1,625 votes in favor of the issue.
Superintendent Russell Chaboudy said he was “tremendously disappointed” to see the results. Passage would have allowed the district to move forward on a major construction and renovation effort and leverage local dollars with $11 million from the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) for a portion of it.
“We just thought this was a golden opportunity not only for the school district but the community,” he said. “We have a lot of people that worked very hard, and we thought we had a pretty good shot at it.”
He added he thinks two factors might have hindered the district’s efforts.
“We kept hearing from a lot of people that they just couldn’t afford to raise their taxes, and we certainly understand that, and they are disappointed with the way our schools are funded in the state,” he said. “It’s a shame. I feel bad for our kids. They really deserve to be in a great learning environment. We have a very tough situation with our facilities.”
Had it passed, the levy and bond issue would have cost $153 per year for the owner of property valued at $83,300, the median value of a Portage Lakes area household, school officials said.
Earlier this year, Treasurer Aaron Butts estimated that passage of the issue would save the district $600,000 a year, an amount currently being paid annually in repairs to the district’s buildings. He said the money now spent keeping the buildings in operation could be used to save future jobs.
Chaboudy said the district would need to make some big decisions in the coming weeks as it re-examines the construction plan and its other needs.
He said the district already had planned to seek a renewal of its current operating levy in the Nov. 6 General Election. The filing deadline for the election was Aug. 8.
Once a district is offered funding from the OSFC, it has 12 months to pass a bond issue for its share.
“The Board of Education will have to determine if we go on the ballot with a large operating issue or come back with this issue” in 2013, Chaboudy said. “We thought we had a chance to win this thing and move forward, but this puts us in a bind.”
He added that district officials are meeting with an Ohio Department of Education oversight committee in a week and that could determine what happens next.
The district decided in May to place the bond and levy issue on the ballot after the OSFC — an independent state agency that helps fund the construction of new schools or renovations to existing ones to improve the education experience — offered the district $11 million toward a $39.3 million construction and renovation project.
At that time, Chaboudy said the district was about two years away from receiving the offer, but state Rep. Anthony DeVitis (R-District 43), of Green, appealed to the OSFC after learning of the district’s facility needs.
If it had passed, district officials said the bond issue would have paved the way for the construction of a new state-of-the-art high school for ninth through 12th grades, including a new gymnasium, increased parking and other site improvements. District officials said the high school would have been built at the current Erwine Intermediate School site, and the current Erwine building would have been demolished as part of the project.
The plan also would have consolidated all of the elementary students into one building. The existing high school would have been renovated to become a new elementary school for kindergarten through fifth grades, complete with a new gymnasium. The roof would be upgraded, technology added and additional security measures put in place, district officials said. They added that by closing Turkeyfoot Elementary, the district would have seen a savings.
The bond and improvement levy also would have allowed for a new heating and cooling system to be installed, windows and roof replacement, the addition of new classrooms, upgrades to technology and security, and paving at Coventry Middle School.
Additionally, the plan called for the relocation of the existing pre-engineered building at Turkeyfoot, which would have been converted into the district’s administrative offices.
Chaboudy said whatever happens, he and his staff are now focused on welcoming students back for the new school year.
“They deserve a 21st-century learning environment and, unfortunately, we didn’t get it,” he said. “We’re going to welcome back 2,400 kids Aug. 21 and do the best we can do.”
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