School officials wonder what’s next after levy failures


AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Several different issues dealing with school districts were rejected by voters on Tuesday.

One was a 4.1-mill bond issue that would help fund a new Austintown Fitch High School building. School officials said there are several issues with the 46-year-old building, including a leaky roof and a $7 million project to fix the heating and cooling systems.

“Eventually it’s going to come back to the community. We’re going to have to go back to the community to get money to build a new Fitch. When that is and if it’s going to be a partnership with the state, that offer runs out in August, so the board has to determine if they’re going to do something in August and if it’s after that, we become a lapsed district and we have to secure our money ourselves and then we go back to the state and ask for their share,” said Austintown Superintendent Vince Colaluca.

He said the internal systems at Fitch must be addressed and if the district does it later, the cost will be higher. Right now, the state is willing to pitch in some of the funds.

“The thing that is very fearful is how will this impact the children? There are some people saying ‘this is not about the children.’ It’s always about the children. It’s not about the adults in the system. Adults come and go. We’re always going to have kids,” Colaluca said.

He was not the only one expressing disappointment in the bond issue’s failure.

“As a father, as a community member and also as a principal, I was really disappointed that it failed,” said Austintown Fitch principal Chris Berni.

Officials in two other districts also are dealing with rejected income tax levies.

In the West Branch Local School District, Superintendent Scott Weingart said it’s back to the drawing board. He said that since the 0.75 percent income tax did not pass, the board will have to decide where they can cut $800,000 from next year’s operating costs without impacting the students’ core education or put it back on the ballot, which is a choice they have to make by July.

Springfield Local Schools Superintendent Debra Mettee said they will have another shot at renewing the five-year, 1 percent income tax once again in November if the school board chooses to put it back on the ballot. The tax generates about $2 million dollars a year.

Both Mettee and Weingart said that the number of votes cast for their issues did no’t equal the number of parents in those districts.

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