CPS funding for capital improvement

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia Public Schools Finance Committee hopes to make funding and resources more universal across all of its schools.

At a meeting Wednesday evening, the committee prioritized funding demands for 2018-2019 with more than 60 action items.

The committee broke down $4.5 million in revenue from local tax levies and property taxes to address different needs across the district. CPS plans to improve accessibility and technology across facilities, maintain playgrounds and revamp athletic fields.

Interim Chief Financial Officer Heather McArthur said she is hopeful these changes will make a positive impact across schools.

“We want to prioritize that local spending as well as our bond spending,” she said. McArthur said there’s a “large work order” for Columbia schools but is optimistic about the progress during the budgeting process.

CPS issued $35 million in bonds in March and Columbia voters just passed the bond authorization in April to authorize and additional $30 million for capital improvement projects.

Two playground sites determined for immediate repair are New Haven Elementary and the Center of Responsive Education.

The biggest and most costly project is the new middle school to be built in the southwest area of Columbia on Sinclair Road. The school, not yet named, will cost an estimated $36 million and is expected to open in 2020 for nearly 700 students.

“The enrollment and capacity at schools is always a hot topic. A lot of that will be taken care of at the middle school level when the construction of the new elementary school,” McArthur said. She said students and parents will hopefully see “smaller class sizes” soon.

Over the past years, CPS has significantly decreased the number of trailer classrooms across the district, from 173 down to 47. McArthur said this is one of the district’s biggest priorities and expects the number of trailers used as classrooms will drop to 11 by 2022.

“About 10 years ago we set a priority to get rid of the trailer business,” McArthur said. “By this summer we should be down to 47.”

The school board will review the report as an action item at a meeting next Monday.