Plan to Build New Middle School Unveiled
Councilman, school board member announce idea to construct new building next to high school, ultimately save money for district
Two City Councilmen and school board member have unveiled a proposal to build a new middle school next to Strongsville High School -- a plan they say would bring much-needed improvements to buildings throughout the district and ultimately save money.
Ward 3 Councilman Jim Carbone, Ward 2 Councilman Matt Schonhut and board member Carl Naso want to put a bond issue on the November ballot to build a new middle school that would replace Center and Albion.
"I graduated in 1991 and I remember how bad Center was then," Carbone said. "And 21 years later, it's still bad."
The $72 million bond issue would include $55 million for a middle school, plus $12 million for improvements to the high school and $5 million for upgrades to elementary schools.
Just as important, it could offset the need for a new operating levy in two or three years, when forecasts show the district slipping back into red ink.
"This is a long-term plan to stem some of that red ink," Naso said. "I don't want to put up another operating levy in a couple years."
Carbone said the new middle school, which would likely be built on land the district already owns, could house 6th, 7th and 8th-graders, which would allow the district to also consolidate some elementary schools.
He estimates the savings in building maintenance, utilities and transportation at $1.5 to $2.5 million a year.
The district saved $1 million by closing Allen Elementary School, Naso said.
And while $72 million sounds like a lot, Carbone and Naso said homeowners would actually see a property tax increase of only about $8.42 a year per $100,000 of home valuation.
That's because other bonds are expiring. By 2014, $74.11 a year will go off the books.
Replacing those with the new bond issue, at $82.53 a year, means taxes would go up only $8.42 a year per $100,000 in home value.
"When I was campaigning, I kept hearing complaints about the school buildings," Carbone said. "People said they want us to pass levies, but we have nothing to show for it."
Board President David Frazee said he likes the idea.
"I really excited about the plan," Frazee said. "I think it's a great opportunity for us."
Other points of the plan:
• Technology -- Some of the money would go toward upgrading technology in all the schools. "You see classes still using projectors," Carbone said.
• Schools could sell property -- The district stands to make money if it sells the Center and Albion sites, as well as other land if elementary schools are consolidated.
• Bond issues pay for buildings, not operations -- Money from bond issues can only be used for hard assets like new buildings, repairs and permanent improvements, not for salaries or other operating costs.
• Boost for community -- The proponents say improving the school buildings would increase property values and help Strongsville market the city to new businesses. "It's a real face lift for the community," Carbone said.
Naso emphasized the plan is preliminary and much of it -- from the location of the new middle school, the price tag and the idea of putting 6th-graders in the new building -- could change.
"It's not the only option," he said. "But we can't keep putting millions into new roofs."
The school board is planning to meet on April 17 to discuss the idea again.