COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Last November, voters overwhelming approved Columbus City Schools Issue 57, A property tax and levy aimed at improving the school district.
The 6.92 Mills levy was an 18 percent increase that raised tax bills for Columbus families. The increase means an extra $242 in taxes per $100,000 home value.
It was a dramatic turnaround from previous failed attempts. Columbus voters rejected a levy for Columbus City Schools in 2013 that would have raised school property taxes by 24 percent.
In the six months since voters approved the levy, Columbus City Schools have been focused on the roughly $200 million in deferred maintenance projects and hired new staff.
“We are biting off what we can chew,” Superintendent Dan Good said of the districts first goals.
Hamilton STEM Academy is one school that will have heating and cooling for the first time in the school’s history, “It can do heating in this room and AC on the opposite side of the hall,” said Alex Trevino, who is charge of Operation Fix-It with CCS. The program is focused on the districts legacy buildings, “We like to say safe, warm and dry,” Trevino added.
In addition, schools like Hamilton are getting security upgrades, like secured vestibules which include a second set of locked doors at a school entrance that can stop an intruder from gaining access to classrooms.
School staff at Hamilton are looking forward to the changes, “We have a lot of improvements happening,” Principal Christopher Brady said they’ve gotten upgrades from new windows to new air conditioning units, “All of these thing are helping to make a better learning environment for our kids.”
Hamilton is one of more than five dozen legacy buildings in the district, all previously dealing with problems from rotting roofs, to broken boilers.
“For all of those 64 buildings there’s something being done,” Superintendent Dr. Dan Good said.
Of the $125 million dollar bond, so far only $75 has been put up for sale, “We only fund what we know we are going to be able to do,” Good added at least 12 schools are in the process of getting new roofs.
In addition, the school district has promised $50 million for operating costs and 324 new staff positions. So far they have hired at least 70, based on budget and need, “Social workers, licensed school nurses, instructional assistants,” Good said.
According to Good the remaining bond will go on sale likely after the State education budget is finalized this summer.
Operation Fix-it is a 5 year plan that Good believes will keep kids on the path to learning from kindergarten to graduation, “We believe we have a track record, we know how to build on success, we also know what our challenges continue to be, so we are going to focus on those next,” Good said.
You can track which schools are getting what upgrades on the Operation-Fix it web page on the Columbus City Schools website.