Columbia Chamber supports CPS levy increase, bond issue
COLUMBIA – The Columbia Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors voted to support a levy increase and bond issue by Columbia Public Schools for the election on April 6.
“Education is one of the most important economic development tools,” said Matt McCormick, president of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce.
“The city with the best schools win and Columbia cannot afford to let CPS fall behind other school districts in the state,” McCormick added.
Columbia Public Schools proposes a tax levy that will increase operating tax by $0.65 per $100 of assessed value. Revenue from the increase will help maintain current programs, support increasing student enrollment and assist in recruiting high-quality faculty.
The school district estimated the levy increase will generate an additional $14 million in annual revenue. The district said those funds will stop planned deficit spending as it continues to grow. Additional projects include paying for utilities, transportation and required staffing for new buildings and supporting unfunded state and federal mandates such as homeless student transportation and federal nutrition requirements.
The district is also proposing a no-tax-rate-increase bond issue to pay for costs of construction and furnishing and equipping new and existing school facilities.
If the bond issue is passed, CPS will issue $30 million worth of bonds to allocate to three main areas:
$20 million will be used for new construction and future growth plans including:
- $6 million to purchase land and design a new middle school to eliminate middle school overcrowding in south Columbia
- $11 million for elementary school addition(s) to address continued community growth and eliminate trailers
- $3 million for a kitchen expansion at Gentry Middle School to address growth and all for more freshly prepared food
$8 million will be used for building improvements including projects such as:
- $5 million for safety and security improvements, renovation and repair of buildings, HVAC systems, exterior paving and electrical systems
- $2 million for roof replacements and repairs
- $1 million for outdoor athletic improvements at Gentry, Lange and Smithton middle schools
$2 million will be used for wireless network infrastructure expansion, replacement of network switches, servers and storage area networks.
McCormick said teaching and learning facilities have a big impact on a student’s ability to learn.
“Businesses want to operate where its employees and their families can be happy. Along with that, they want to be located in a city with public schools that regularly produce work-ready employees. If we want Columbia businesses to continue to prosper, we need to invest into our public school facilities,” McCormick said.