Bond issue set for ballot

AUSTINTOWN – The Austintown Local School District will ask voters for nearly $46 million in May, according to a resolution passed during Wednesday’s special meeting.

The 4.1-mill bond is necessary for the district to build a new high school as well as several other renovations, Superintendent Vincent Colaluca said.

With part of the bond going toward a new Fitch High School, some will be used for demolition of the old building as well as renovation of the football stands. The new high school would be built north of the existing building in the wooded area and that the bus garage will remain in its current location.

Plans also call for waterproofing the gymnasium and walkway to prevent deterioration. Some of the classrooms along that auditorium would be renovated and turned into office space and preschool classrooms.

The state won’t provide money for an auditorium, so $10 million of the bond issue is for that purpose.

Nearly half of the cost of the new building – 47 percent – would be provided by the state, leaving the district to make up the other 53 percent.

“Our thought is to get a new building with state dollars. It’s the taxpayers’ money, so why not bring it to Austintown?” he said.

The state has allocated $30 million to the project, which includes the new high school complete with up-to-date technology. If the bond issue doesn’t pass, Colaluca said Austintown will be labeled a “lapsed district” and the money might go elsewhere.

“We would have to raise the money on our own,” go back to the state and request the 47 percent again – at which point the money might be gone, he said.

Colaluca said regardless, the district is faced with a 50-year-old building that needs a new heating / cooling system, a roof, and an auditorium lighting system that cannot be upgraded, all of which would cost more than $9 million.

He said he hopes that voters will see the value of the construction of a new building partly funded with state dollars as opposed to renovating an old building with no help from the state.

“It’s one of our last opportunities, we feel … the cost of construction is only going to go up, so we’d love to do it at this time,” he said.