Columbus Schools ask voters for operations funding

Statewide hundreds of school districts are taking their funding needs to the voters in the form of levies and bonds. The Columbus Public Schools are seeking approval of an operating levy that would raise 62-million-dollars a year. District officials say they haven’t asked voters for an operating levy since 1996.

The Columbus Schools have rolled out several academic programs in recent years that Superintendent Gene Harris credits with improving student test scores, attendance and graduation rates. Those programs include the Virtual High School, credit recovery and the gifted and talented program.

The Columbus schools have struggled to meet academic standards over the years, though the district has seen some improvement. In 2003 the district moved out of state designated academic emergency. But the Columbus schools remain on academic watch just one step above the worst possible rating. Harris says the district needs the levy money and without it students would suffer under major budget cuts.

The Columbus Schools spend just over 10-thousand dollars per pupil each year. The puts the district among the top spenders in Franklin County, with just over 80-percent of it going to staff salaries and benefits. Joe Curran of Columbus Citizens Against the Tax says there’s a lot of waste.

Curran is among a small group of people who are vocally opposed to the levy. The group has no funding, doesn’t plan to spend any money and therefore hasn’t registered with the county board of elections as an organized opposition group. But a couple of them have been showing up to candidates forums around Columbus voicing their opposition.

The levy would add 213-dollars on a 100-thousand dollar home, to Columbus residents’ annual property tax bill.

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