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Columbia school leaders discuss future growth

Columbia Public Schools is taking a look at future growth in the district and how to pay for it tonight.

Officials are meeting at the Holiday Inn Executive Center Thursday night, where the superintendent said the district may need a new middle school.

Dr. Peter Stiepleman said Gentry Middle School in particular is about 200 students over capacity, so he wants to see another school in south Columbia. However, paying for the growth will be problematic for the district.

The district already plans to open an early childhood education center in 2017, and Beaulah Ralph Elementary later this year.

The board of education has grappled with how to pay for the new schools in the last two budgets.

Budget Director Linda Quinley has said significant budget cuts may come in the next few school years, if tax revenue and state funding stays at the same rate.

The district uses bonds to pay for those large building projects.

Former Superintendent Chris Belcher said he didn’t expect a tax increase on the 2016 bond renewal issue.

District leaders will discuss any potential property tax increase they consider to pay for growth.

ABC 17 News has a crew at the meeting and will have more details on ABC 17 News at 9 and 10.

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