COLUMBIA – Voters approved a $50 million school district bond issue Tuesday.
- 7,122 votes — 63.5 percent — in favor of the bond issue, which required the approval of 57 percent of those who voted.
After the bond issue passed, district Superintendent Chris Belcher, who was at Jonathan Sessions and Helen Wade's watch party at Bleu Restaurant and Catering, said he wanted to thank the community.
“It’s important to really be aggressive on our facility needs,” Belcher said, “and we’re starting to level the ship.”
Battle High School Assistant Principal Andrew McCarthy said the bond issue means a continuation of the plan set up by district administration. McCarthy attended Wade and Sessions' watch party.
"They've worked hard to put it in place," he said.
McCarthy became an assistant principal at Battle High School when it opened in August. The high school was built as part of a bond issue approved in 2010.
"For us, that really helped at the secondary level," he said. "This time, it will help at the elementary level to get our kids in safe learning environments."
Board member-elect Paul Cushing, who celebrated his election to the board at Flat Branch Pub & Brewing, said after finding out that he had been elected to the board that he was excited to see the bond had passed.
“The plan is a good one. The taxpayers took the biggest hit two years ago, and now it’s just keeping time and following through,” he said.
Annelle Whitt came to Flat Branch to support Cushing and said before the final results had been tallied that she thought the bond issue was reasonable.
"It’s not a lot for what we can get," she said. "We have needs, and it was necessary. It was a small investment for a large return for our kids."
Debt service levy increase: The bond issue will increase the district's debt service levy by 4 cents, from 93 cents to 97 cents per $100 of assessed value. The levy will take effect at the beginning of the district's fiscal year July 1. Taxpayers in the district will start to see the increase on their property tax bills in December.
When and how the money will be used: Money from the bond issue will be available in March 2016. According to the district's spending plan, the funds will be used for the following:
- $28.6 million for the construction of a new elementary school on Columbia's east side. Construction is scheduled to start in spring 2016, and the school is scheduled to open in January 2018.
- $5.5 million for critical facility needs at more than 30 buildings.
- $4.4 million for three phases of improvements to Douglass High School.
- $4 million for technology infrastructure, including new servers and storage.
- $2.73 million for additions to one or more yet-to-be-determined elementary schools.
- $2.7 million for roof replacements.
- $1.87 million for improvements to Rock Bridge High School's athletics facilities.
- $200,000 in bond fees.
The bond issue is part of a 10-year plan led by Belcher to relieve overcrowding in elementary schools.
Jacob Hamilton, Christa Corrigan, Casey Nighbor, Kylee Gregg and Makenzie Koch contributed to this article.
Supervising editor is Allie Hinga.