The first community meeting regarding funding issues with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District construction and renovation project will be held Tuesday night.
According to CMSD CEO Eric Gordon, the state has changed its funding for the building and renovation project, which means construction has been put on hold.
For 14 years, Gordon said the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission made allowances for higher construction and labor costs within the city of Cleveland. But in 2016, that exception was taken away, Gordon said.
Gordon said the change will affect 13 schools and result in a $34 million impact. He said he refuses to back down without a fight.
“I’m not giving away $34 million dollars of taxpayer money to the state and just conceding the point,” Gordon said. “I’m out there advocating that we go to Columbus and demand that Columbus support its single-highest poverty city in making sure that our kids have the facilities they deserve.”
Cleveland City Councilman Matt Zone said the state has to be held accountable for what they agreed to in the first place.
“We went to the ballot, we asked voters to voluntarily raise their taxes to support facilities. We did that, and now the state is trying to pull the rug out from under us,” Zone said.
Michele Sommerfelt is a volunteer on the Detroit Shoreway Schools Advisory Committee and said she hopes the state and CMSD can work something out so that construction can begin as soon as possible. She also lives across the street from Joseph M. Gallagher, a school that was supposed to be renovated in 2017 but is now on hold.
“I see 700 kids come to that building across the street from me every day and I know that they are not getting the same educational environment and quality of education that other buildings that have already been renovated are receiving in Cleveland, and that’s just unfair,” Sommerfelt said.
Some of the issues at Gallagher, Zone said, are shoddy construction, nonfunctional electrical outlets and windows, and restrooms that don’t work. The building was built in 1977.
The OFCC, however, said there have been no changes made to the CMSD agreement or funding structure, and the state continues to contribute two-thirds of the co-funded project budget.
The Commission sent News 5 the following statement:
The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission administers a statewide program with a consistent, long-established, and unchanged method of funding K-12 facilities work. We remain sensitive to the needs of individual districts and recently worked with the Cleveland Municipal School District to fine tune the funding in a manner that provided an additional $14 million to the state’s share of this project.
The Commission will continue to work with the District to move forward on their school construction and renovation project. The district's residents may be assured of continued state support for this project.
The first CMSD community meeting is Tuesday, June 5 at 6 p.m. at Joseph M. Gallagher, 6601 Franklin Blvd.
You can find a list of future meetings to be held this summer by clicking here.