City Education Money City Council debates Athens “mega-school” controversy and underpass spending By Cole Behrens Posted on October 3, 2017 5 min read 1 0 591 East Elementary School. File photo by Connor Perrett City Council eventually gave up on a resolution concerning the “mega-school,” while community members raised concerns over an expensive campus underpass. City Council deadlocked a resolution about communication between Athens City School District planners and council members at its meeting Monday. The resolution, proposed by Councilperson Michele Papai, stated that actions of the ACSD will have a significant impact on the city, so City Council should be fully informed in the ACSD plans as they are devised. She claimed that the actions of the ACSD did not reflect inclusiveness in the community. “I think that we are at a point where there are many rumors about what is going on,” Papai said. But Councilperson Arian Smedley remained critical of the proposed resolution. “I am unclear about what problem we are trying to resolve with this resolution,” Smedley said. The proposal was also met with opposition by citizens, particularly Alan Swank, a former Athens High School teacher and coach. He delivered an open letter to the council regarding the resolution. In the letter, Swank claimed that city council desired “to maintain a status quo,” and urged the council to abandon the resolution and allow the ACSD and the Steering Committee to continue its planning of new facilities. The open letter garnered 26 citizen signatures. Debate surrounding the proposed consolidation of Athens schools into one “mega-school” continued to arise as the April deadline approaches for the Steering Committee to submit its plans. The Steering Committee is composed of 16 members appointed to help develop a long-term facilities plan. Furthermore, ACSD has become eligible for state funding for new facilities, where the state will pay for 32 percent with the city expected to pay the remainder. Athens City Schools ranked poorly in the statewide report card, particularly in the fields of K-3 literacy and standardized test achievement. Ultimately, the resolution was never voted on, as Councilperson Peter Kotses proposed that the resolution be suspended indefinitely. City Council President Christine Knisely voted in favor of permanent suspension, breaking the tie. Another topic discussed was the planned construction of the underpass that will be placed under Porter Hall. Citizens voiced their disapproval of the construction, claiming that construction will only further increase the congestion issue, and others expressed their concerns regarding lack of research put into the project. The project is expected to cost $2.5 million to $3 million, with a $1 million state grant being awarded for the project. The city is expected to have to pay $260,000 dollars for the project. City Council also passed a resolution permitting the mayor to join a group of 50-100 municipalities in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of amendments to chapter 718 of the Ohio Revised Code, which relates to municipal income tax. This amendment centralizes the collection of business income tax revenue, and would raise the amount that the city would have to pay the state. “If we didn’t fight this tax, that the income tax for business going forward would be $15,000,” Mayor Steve Patterson said.