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Columbus City Schools explain how money will be used after levy approval

Yard signs read "vote for our students, our schools, our community, our future. Columbus City Schools Levy."
Allie Vugrincic
/
WOSU
Signs outside a polling location at Columbus City Preparatory School for Girls in Columbus' Franklin Park neighborhood encourage voters to support the Columbus City Schools Levy during Tuesday's election.

The Columbus City Schools are celebrating a win with the passage of its 7.7 mill combined levy for operating expenses and permanent improvements.

The measure passed on Tuesday with over 54% of the vote. Now, school leaders are breaking down how they will use the roughly $100 million that is expected to be generated annually.

Speaking at an event before Wednesday’s CCS Board of Education meeting, board president Jennifer Adair said the levy is not “extra money.”

“It’s reinvestment in existing positions, programs, as well as that dedicated capital budget to maintain the things we already have,” she said.

Operating expenses

More than $38.6 million of the money will go toward operating expenses, district leaders said. Another $20 million that had previously been transferred for building improvements will also be able to be used for operations.

Of that, $27.5 million will go to keeping nearly 300 staff members originally brought on with a portion of the district’s $450 million federal COVID-19 pandemic relief money, which is expected to run out next year.

The district will keep 11 ESL interpreters and translators, 90 school counselors, 18 social workers, 30 security specialists, 56 building substitutes, 68 custodians, 10 attendance program specialists, six regional family engagement coordinators and five vulnerable youth liaisons. The rest of the roughly 647 positions started with the federal money will not be continued.

Some student and family support programs started with the federal pandemic relief money will also be kept thanks to $19 million of the levy money. Some of the programs that will be retained include device support, summer programs for elementary schools, credit recovery, career advising and family ambassador and bilingual family engagement.

Additional support programs, including math professional development and incentives for high-need teacher licenses will be added with another $2.5 million.

“The only real thing that's new will be the six new pre-K classrooms,” Adair said. About $1.2 million will be put toward those six sites.

Facility improvements

Of the nearly $60.5 million for permanent improvements, about $26.8 million will go toward building infrastructure, including roofing, HVAC, electrical, plumbing, code compliance, pavements and security.

The second largest allotment, $23.4 million, will go toward improvements for learning environments, including renovations to classrooms, auditoriums and gymnasiums. That money will also go toward furnishings, playgrounds and flooring.

Most of the remaining funding – $6.75 million – will go toward athletic infrastructure: stadiums, tracks, turf fields, baseball and softball fields, tennis courts and lighting and fencing.

The district says $500,000 per year will be set aside for planning and design.

District officials also said the district is considering making changes in the future, which could include school consolidation and reductions to central office staffing.

Collaborative effort

At the beginning of Wednesday’s board of education meeting, Adair briefly thanked everyone who supported the levy.

“We know that passage of Issue 11 is extremely critical to the foundation of continuing to build the success of Columbus City schools,” Adair said.

And CCS Superintendent Angela Chapman said in a video statement that she extends her “heartfelt gratitude” to families and community members for their continued support.

“This is a collective effort, with each of us playing a vital role in helping Columbus City School students be equipped with the tools they need to thrive and reach their full potential,” Chapman said. “Our commitment to our scholars is unwavering with their achievement as our top priority.”

Based on 2023 property evaluations, the levy will cost property owners about $270 per every $100,000 of appraised property value, but that amount could change next year when updated property appraisals go into effect.

Allie Vugrincic has been a radio reporter at WOSU 89.7 NPR News since March 2023.