CUYAHOGA FALLS: The Cuyahoga Falls School Board held a special meeting Monday to discuss future plans for the district.
The members talked about very preliminary plans of building and renovating its school buildings. They also discussed ways to plug the hole in the general fund caused by state funding cuts.
It was the first discussion on both subjects, and no decisions were made.
A special committe has been working for more than two years on a plan for upgrading and building four elementary schools, a middle school and a high school, Superintendent Todd Nichols said.
Nichols added it is time to discuss the ideas in earnest and develop a plan the school board can support and voters can get excited about.
The state of Ohio put aside money awarded to from a tobacco lawsuit to renovate, rebuild and upgrade Ohio's schools. School disricts are required to pay about 75 percent of the costs, with the state using tobacco money to pay the rest.
In Cuyahoga Falls, that amount translates to $113 million of an estimated $151.7 million price tag that would be paid for by bonds.
The schools also must be built to state standards. That means extras like auditoriums and gymnasiums are luxuries that the district would come from the pockets of the district's taxpayers.
School board member Karen Schofield said she would love to have new facilities.
"It's got to be bigger than that,'' she said. "It's got to be more compelling. Until we can demonstrate that our existing facilities don't meet future needs, what's the point?"
Member Barb Gunter said she has found a lot of excitement when she talks to people about building new schools.
"While they would say that [they] would agree that it's needed, they would wonder if we can afford it," she said.
And there is reason to question affordability.
A renewal levy is expected to go on the ballot in 2015.
Even if the levy passes, the district will still carry a deficit of more than $1 million in 2016 if another source of revenue isn't found.
The Board talked about asking for passage of a permanent improvement levy that would pay to maintain and replace equipment and technology.
"We're in a community that was greatly affected by the economy," Gunter said. "If we have to pay any more, I'm going to have to go out on the street and ask for money."