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Coventry district bond issue, levy on February ballot

11/8/2012 - South Side Leader
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By Emily Chesnic

COVENTRY — Even before the Nov. 6 General Election came to an end, the Coventry Local Schools Board of Education took action to put an issue on the Feb. 5 Special Election ballot for the sake of the district’s future.

This week, the board met in several special meetings to place a combined 5.99-mill levy and bond issue back on the ballot to fund the construction of a new Coventry High School and improvements to other school buildings. The Summit County Board of Elections deadline to place issues on the Feb. 5 ballot was Nov. 7.

“This issue in February is not just about a new school but a source of pride for this entire community,” said Superintendent Russell Chaboudy. “It is our goal that the community will help us provide the type of facilities that match the talent and dedication of our students and staff.”

In the Aug. 7 Special Election, the same issue failed by 53 percent.

Coventry Local Schools Treasurer Aaron Butts explained 4.89 mills would be used for the bond, which would extend 34 years, and 1.1 mills for a permanent improvement levy.

According to district officials, the bond issue would allow for the construction of a new state-of-the-art high school for ninth through 12th grades, including a new high school gymnasium, increased parking and paving and other site improvements. District officials said the high school would be built at the current Erwine Intermediate School site, and the current Erwine building would be demolished as part of the project.

“We have been rated Excellent with Distinction two of the last three years, and it is time to provide our students with a learning environment that keeps us competitive with other districts in our area,” Chaboudy said concerning the construction of a new high school.

The plan is to house all of the elementary students in the current high school, which would be transformed into a new elementary school for kindergarten through fifth grades, should voters approve the ballot issue in February, Chaboudy said.

The roof would be upgraded, technology added and additional security measures put in place at the new elementary school, and Turkeyfoot Elementary School would close, he has said.

If approved, the bond and improvement levy would allow for a new heating and cooling system to be installed, the windows and roof replaced, new classrooms added, technology upgraded, security upgraded and paving at Coventry Middle School, according to district officials.

“We feel our facilities should match that of our high-achieving students throughout the district. We have received Excellent with Distinction, the highest level in the State of Ohio academically, yet we have by far the poorest facilities in Summit County,” Butts said.

Last May, 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 — offered the district $11 million toward a $39.3 million construction and renovation project.

If the district does not approve a bond issue by this spring, the money being offered by the OSFC would go to another district in the state, Chaboudy explained.

“We only have a small window of opportunity to secure some state money to assist us with this project, so we need to take advantage of the state offer of $11 million to assist us with building a new high school,” he said.

Butts has said the permanent improvement component of the ballot issue would be used to reduce outstanding debt currently being paid from the General Fund and to create and implement a preventive maintenance program for district facilities.

He said the district currently is paying between $250,000 and $300,000 a year on maintenance and repairs of outdated buildings, so the ballot issue is crucial.

“Our facilities are literally crumbling around the students. We have multiple leaks in the roof of each building, as well as leaks through windows,” Butts said. “Our boilers are so old, we simply can’t find parts to replace and repair them. Plus, the boilers are failing inspections each year, and the integrity of them continues to dwindle.”

He estimated the district would save $600,000 a year if the issue passed.

“Investing in the bond and permanent improvement issue in February will eliminate a need to go back to the voters for a large operating issue that would be required should the bond and permanent improvement issue be defeated. The passage of this issue helps eliminate spending from our General Fund and thus eliminates the need for more operating money,” Chaboudy said. “Coventry Local Schools has done an outstanding job managing money while providing a solid educational program.”

The bond issue/levy would cost most property owners about $13 per month based on the Portage Lakes area’s median household value. It would cost someone older than 65 about $9 per month, Butts has said.

“Passage of the bond and permanent improvement issue will make our buildings safer, more efficient and an environment conducive to the high-achieving level of our students,” he said. “Passage of this issue will put Coventry Local Schools in a positive financial position unseen before in Coventry. This also would allow us to be released by the Ohio Department of Education from Fiscal Watch.”

Chaboudy said district officials would spend the time leading up to the February election educating the community and encouraging them to vote.

“In August, a large number of our registered parents did not vote for a variety of reasons, so we will work hard with that group to understand the need,” he said.

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