Columbia's new tax levy to maintain programs and staffing

Apr 9, 2012

Columbia public schools are $7.5 million dollars richer after voters approved a 40-cent tax levy in Tuesday’s election.

The 40-cent tax levy will help local public schools maintain current programs and staffing. Michelle Baumstark is the director of community relations for Columbia public schools. She says the $7.5 million dollars of extra revenue is just enough to keep them operating at their current level.

 “It doesn’t provide us with a lot of additional money to be able to do really extravagant things or anything like that. It really maintains the level of services we’ve been able to provide and allows us to address a few of the class size issues we’ve been facing,” Baumstark said.

Baumstark says enrollment numbers are up while school resources are down, resulting in overcrowded classrooms. It’s an issue, she says, which is a good and bad thing.

“It’s a great thing because it means our community is growing and we’re a vibrant community but it also means we have to address the issues with capacity in our buildings and the issue of needing to have correct number of teachers to be able to handle those students,” she said.

Over the last four years, the Columbia public school system has reduced their budget by 20 million dollars and cut nearly 250 staff positions. But thanks to the new tax levy, Baumstark says cuts won’t necessarily be made this year.

 “We’re excited that we’ll be able to stay on track with what our plan and projections are and where we need to be in the coming years for the school district and the community has supported us in making that happen,” she said.

The Columbia public schools will propose their final budget in June and Baumstark says to expect changes as early as August.