An effort by some Akron City Council members to reconsider legislation that approved building a new high school in the Ellet neighborhood fell flat Friday.
But that didn’t stop several members from continuing to raise questions and offer criticism about the school district’s ongoing, citywide building program.
With money running out for the $800 million effort, the council is concerned about which schools may lose out, especially as the city tries to revitalize its neighborhoods and boost its population.
Council members Russ Neal Jr., Donnie Kammer and Tara Mosley-Samples called for the special meeting Friday afternoon to discuss the legislation.
They stressed that they weren’t against building a new high school in Ellet — Mosely-Samples’ voice cracked with emotion as she said she was offended that anyone would accuse her of trying to block the school.
Neal said he wanted to “pump the brakes” because of his concern about the size of the $61.9 million project and questions about the district’s building priorities.
Some neighborhoods are going to be disappointed, he said.
Kammer also raised concerns about the cost of individual schools.
“The numbers just don’t add up,” he said.
City voters approved a 0.25 percent increase to the income tax in 2003 to help fund the construction program, which originally called for 58 projects.
But the district has pared down that number to 42 and there isn’t expected to be enough money available to build new Garfield, Kenmore and North high schools.
About halfway through the meeting, City Law Director Eve Belfance informed the council that it couldn’t reconsider its previous vote on the Ellet project.
The council could revoke the conditional use approved, but that was a separate issue, she said.
Neal complained that the council received misleading information that the previous vote involved allowing a conditional use for the land only as opposed to signing off on the project.
Other members said they knew the legislation permitted the building to move forward.
Councilwoman Linda Omobien, who was on the school board at the beginning of the project, said “some really tough decisions” need to be made now, especially given declining enrollment.
She said she didn’t want to see money wasted on building schools if they aren’t going to be filled with students.
Even Mayor Dan Horrigan attended the meeting to weigh in on the building discussion, noting afterward that he wanted a positive relationship between the city and school district.
“Quite frankly, every hard decision has been punted to the end,” he told the council.
The Joint Board of Review, a collection of city and school leaders, meet regularly to discuss the project. Some have criticized Neal and Kammer for not attending the meetings to have their questions answered.
Akron school board President Bruce Alexander and Vice President Patrick Bravo sent a letter to the council that was read aloud by council President Marilyn Keith during the meeting. They urged council members to reach out to board members if they have questions.
“We must continue to work together, not against one another,” they wrote. “No one will benefit from the disruption of the processes that have worked so well, for so long, for both parties.”
The council and school board plan to meet jointly at 4 p.m. June 20 at the main Akron-Summit County Public Library downtown.
Councilman Jeff Fusco said the council will have an opportunity for input during that meeting.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ.