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CPS officials discuss bond issue, tax levy increase for April ballot

The Columbia Public Schools Finance Committee met to discuss ways to address future budget issues Wednesday.

In April 2016, the school district may be asking voters to decide on a regularly scheduled bond issue and tax levy.

The board of education will decide if it wants to ask voters for a $35 million no tax-increase bond issue and a 55-cent or 65-cent tax levy increase.

If voters approve the bond issue, some of the money would go toward buying land and paying for the design of a new middle school in southwest Columbia. It would also pay for expanding a couple of elementary schools, among other things.

The tax levy increase would help make up for incoming revenues that are decreasing each year.

“As we just keep operating status quo and growing our number of students, which requires adding teaching staff each year, those things become unaffordable without those increases in state revenue we used to have,” CPS Chief Financial Officer Linda Quinley said.

The cost of educating each student and transportation is also steadily increasing, bringing the operating funds down even more, Quinley said.

An increased tax levy would allow the school district to continue current operations, open new buildings like the new middle school and give teachers pay increases for experience.

Wednesday, finance committee members looked at the difference between a 55 and 65-cent tax levy.

“To a homeowner, the difference between the two levies is about $35 a year,” Quinley said. “To the district, it’s a little over $2 million a year. And so it does add up to have a significant impact on our organization and the students.”

With the 55-cent increase, a $100,000 homeowner would have to pay about $104 more a year. With the 65-cent increase, that same homeowner would have to pay about $123 more a year.

The committee voted Wednesday to recommend the 65-cent tax levy to the school board. The committee will present its recommendation to the board at the next meeting on Monday.

If voters approve the 65-cent tax levy increase, Quinley said the district should not have to ask for another levy increase for six to seven years.

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