COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A Columbus City Schools levy, Issue 57, would raise Columbus school property taxes by about 18 percent. The millions of dollars raised by Issue 57 would upgrade Columbus City School buildings and increase school staffing levels.
Columbus parent Miriam Abbott sends her youngest to Indian Springs Elementary School.
“I really want to support the schools and I think there is a price point that would work for a lot of families in Columbus, but 18 percent is a lot for a school district losing population in its K-12 grades,” Abbott says.
Abbott adds her property taxes would increase about $600 per year, which is too steep for her. Columbus parent Will Easton says his fourth grader and about 50,000 other district students will benefit from passing Issue 57.
“The levy itself is a responsible proposal. It does stuff the city schools really need,” Easton explains.
A “yes” vote would raise about $50 million to hire more than 300 new teachers and staff members. The proposal includes hiring 76 special education intervention specialists, 41 pre-kindergarten teachers, 36.5 instructional assistants, 34 teachers for gifted students, 32 English as a second language teachers, 25 social workers, 19 buildings/grounds/technology staff, 16 career-technical teachers, 16 licensed nurses, ten security personnel, nine academic services staff members, four internal auditors, three student transportation dispatchers and three human resource staff members.
Champion Middle School Principal Stephanie Bland says social workers will help work with students and families, connecting them with the school and resources available to them. She is also excited her middle school students could be exposed to other technical fields.
“By looking at those careers, giving them some options, and letting them know this is something else I could do would be a wonderful thing in eighth grade,” Bland says.
Abbott does not understand why the district wants to hire more teachers and staff when district enrollment is falling.
“We see that the number in students is down and it doesn’t make sense that they want more people to serve fewer students,” Abbott explains.
The levy would also generate another $125 million for school building maintenance during the next five years. A number of schools would get air conditioning for the first time and other AC or heating systems would be upgraded costing $75 million to $85 million. Leaking roofs would cost $21 million to $24 million to fix. Outdated electrical systems would be upgraded with $8.25 million to $9.5 million. Outdated fire alarms, emergency lighting, water pipes, hot water tanks, restrooms, potholes, and inadequate lighting would also be fixed.
The costs are too high for some. Abbott says there are many Columbus residents who cannot afford such a quick rise in property taxes.
“That little bump could be the bump that pulls them under,” she says.
Others, like Easton, say this is a proposal too good to pass up.
“If you don’t support this, you are voting for the leaking roofs to stay leaky, for the student teacher ratio to stay high, for the nurses to continue to be there only one or two days a week,” he says.
Columbus voters rejected a levy for Columbus City Schools back in 2013. That levy would have raised school property taxes by 24 percent — 6 percent more than the current proposed levy associated with Issue 57.