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Bond issue committee moving forward

February 20, 2014
By J.T. Whitehouse , The Town Crier

Austintown Levy Committee co-chairs Lori Gavalier and Kim Smrek addressed those attending the Feb. 11 Board of Education meeting to present information on the upcoming bond issue. Both agreed the chance of getting state money would be in jeopardy if residents don't approve a bond issue for a new high school.

"If we don't pass this, we will forfeit $31,000,000 in state funding and will be 100 percent responsible for any repairs to the present high school," Smrek said.

She said some have asked her why a bond levy was needed right now. The state of Ohio has approved the $31 million for construction of a new high school, but that funding would only be available until August of this year, then it would be given to another district and Austintown would have to re-apply and be placed at the bottom of the list.

"It is not certain if these funds would be available in the future," Smrek said.

As for Fitch, the state program is available when renovation costs exceed 66 percent of the cost of a new building. Renovating Fitch would exceed 76 percent, which the state stepped in and offered to foot 47 percent of the cost of a new building.

Fitch was opened in 1968 and by today's code, has fallen way behind. One example is the stair wells. Smrek said there are 10 stair wells in Fitch and only two are up to present-day code that calls for an exit to the outside. Only two have that.

Smrek said if the levy passes, the new high school would be constructed north of the present Fitch. The bus garage would remain and no students would be disrupted during the construction. Included in the plan is a total renovation of the current auditorium and athletic areas. This will save a lot over building all new facilities.

One final mention Smrek made was the design of the new high school.

"There is no design at this point," she said, "but once the bond passes, we will hold meetings [with staff and residents] to determine what the new building will look like."

She said the main goal right now is to get the state funds while they are available to Austintown. Smrek gave out her phone number at 330-717-8000 and Gavalier at 330-506-6939, and asked that anyone wanting to discuss the issue could give them a call.

Board of Education member Lou Chine said, "Kim and Lori are the voice of this campaign. Give them a call. Don't listen to the rumors you hear in the grocery store. It would be a shame to lose is state money."

Chine said the bond levy being asked for is a 4.1 mill levy that would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $.40 a day.

Board President Kathy Mock said, "As a mother and educator, we should take advantage of this $31 million in state money. It will make our campus, the best in Ohio."

One resident speaking against the levy at the meeting was George Rohrbaugh, who is in Austintown School District, with a Mineral Ridge mailing address. He said he couldn't support another school levy.



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