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As election looms, city offers school district discount

The City of Columbia could offer the Columbia Public School district a 60% discount on its stormwater bill, if the district begins teaching students about the issue in school.

City Manager Mike Matthes spoke at Monday night’s Columbia Board of Education meeting about Proposition 2, a proposal on the city’s April 7 ballot. If approved, the city would raise the stormwater fee charged to utility customers based on the size of their property for five years.

“The idea is the more water that runs off those impervious areas, the larger the system the utility is maintaining,” Columbia Public Works engineer Erin Keys explained to the board.

CPS currently budgets $5.1 million for utility payments, according to updated numbers budget director Linda Quinley gave ABC 17 News. Last school year, the district spent $4,956,109 on utilities, including water and sewer, refuse removal, electricity and natural gas. The 2013-14 school year payments are nearly a million dollars more than the district paid the year before, largely due to the opening of Battle High School. Next year, the district plans to open Battle Elementary, and Quinley said the opening will increase the utility budget by an estimated $125,000.

From stormwater, CPS paid $36,000 last school year. If Proposition 2 passed, according to Matthes, it could raise that amount for the district to $100,000 a year, when the fee raises reach their max in fiscal year 2020.

“We’ve sort of sharpened our pencils, [Columbia Public Schools Superintendent] Dr. Stiepleman and I have had some conversations about the impact of the stormwater ballot, what the increase might do to the schools,” Matthes said.

The district qualifies for a 60% discount through federal rules set by the Environmental Protection Agency by providing “public education and outreach” on stormwater issues. Quinley estimates the discount would cost the district $39,793 through the five years of increases, if Proposition 2 passed. Without, the district would add $66,321 in that same period.

“If the public schools introduce the storm water into the science curriculum, we can offer a sixty percent discount,” Matthes said. “And so that puts you almost back to where you are currently.”

The city currently offers the same discount for the University of Missouri.

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