WAC discusses upcoming isues

The country’s financial picture bought out numerous questions from Westland Area Commission members with the November election having several money issues on the ballot.

“What if?” seemed to be the more frequently asked question at the Oct. 15 meeting, whether the topic being explained was the bond issues for the city of Columbus or the combination operating levy and bond issue for the Columbus City Schools or South-Western City Schools.

WAC member Jo Ellen Locke, who chairs the commission’s parks and recreation committee, raised the question first in her report about the status of the Blauser property that has been singled out as the site of a proposed regional recreation center.

The last of the six bond issues for the city on the November ballot would provide funds for two regional recreation centers. WAC has approved a zoning request, an early step in allowing the city to purchase the land, but the request has not yet made its way to city council.

“The Blausers would like to sell the park land by the end of the year,” Locke said, making a first reference to the fact that the land along West Broad Street near the Kroger store could be divided for sale.

Money from a bond issue voters approved in 2004 has been set aside for the purchase of land for a regional recreation center. The city is planning to build two such centers and will have to choose from three proposals.

Voters have to give their approval on these bond issues before the city can sell bonds to raise money for the planned projects.

“The bonds won’t be sold until spring,” Locke said of the expected approval. “But if the economy doesn’t improve, they won’t be sold until later. It’s hard telling when work would start (on the centers).”

Concern over the lagging economy continued in the line of questions when Columbus City Schools Board of Education member Stephanie Groce spoke about the combined issue that would provide operating funds for the district as well as allow the district to sell bonds to raise money for renovations and construction of buildings.

“What I like about (the package) is that we are answering questions from parents,” she said as she explained the district would like to create more alternative high schools, purchase updated textbooks and upgrade the technology.

“What I don’t like about it is the fact that it will raise taxes,” Groce continued.

If the district is not successful with this request, cuts will have to be made, she said.

“We’ll get through this school year OK,” she said. “But next school year we’ll be $32 million in debt and we’ll have to cut a lot.”

The district’s operating budget is $681 million and is expected to grow in a few years to $810 million, even though the district has seen a drop of 8,000 students this decade, mostly due to the flight to charter schools.

When WAC member Art McCabe asked what people on fixed incomes are to do about rising property taxes, Groce said “changes will have to be made.”

She explained that in her life away from the board she operates a small business and has been forced to make changes.

“I’ve got less income because I’m doing less business,” she said. “I’m making changes.”
Some members of WAC reside in the CCS district while others are in the SWCS district, where a combination operating levy-bond issue is on the ballot. Approval would allow for an aggressive renovation and building program.

Jan Collette, who serves as WAC’s education chairman, echoed much of Groce’s comments. SWCS is about one third the size of the Columbus district, but it faces many of the same issues.

At the next meeting
Bill Steimer, the commission’s vice president, said he has asked the Columbus Division of Fire to present a report at the next meeting concerning home and business safety as the cold weather approaches and residents will be using their heating systems by that time.

The public is invited to this meeting which will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 19, in the first floor classrooms at Doctors Hospital. The meeting time is moved up a half hour which will allow people to be able to attend the Prairie Township Trustees regularly scheduled meeting.

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