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      $50 million school bond issue on Columbia ballot

      Columbia voters will head to the polls on Tuesday to decide on a $50 million school bond proposal.

      The ballot issue would help reduce classroom overcrowding.

      Tuesdayâ??s ballot issue would increase the districtâ??s debt levy by 4 cents. That means the average Columbia homeowner would pay an extra $12 a year on their property taxes. The 4 cents would allow school administrators to sell $50 million in bonds. That money would pay for a new school to replace Cedar Ridge Elementary School, upgrade Douglass High School, renovate Rock Bridge High School Stadium, and eliminate some trailers while expanding elementary schools. School leaders say low voter turnout would lower their chances of passing their proposal.

      School superintendent Dr. Chris Belcher said, â??I hope people donâ??t say things are fine and I donâ??t have time to vote today. Our goal is to get people to vote because no matter what the decision is, I really want to know that it is truly the decision or the consensus of the population.â??

      Columbia voters passed bond issues in 2010 and 2012 that paid for the construction of a new high school and 2 new elementary schools.

      Columbia voter Angela Huntington said, â??I think that our schools are tending to get overcrowded. 12 dollars out of my pocket ainâ??t no big thing.â??

      Columbia voter Lorie Hall said, â??I am going to support it. The schools are overcrowded. They do need help.â??

      Columbiaâ??s student enrollment has increased by more than 1,700 students during the past 10 years. That makes Columbia Public Schools the fifth largest school district in Missouri.

      Dr. Belcher predicts Columbiaâ??s enrollment to jump by a thousand students within the next 5 years. Right now, the district has nearly 18,000 students.

      More than half of Columbiaâ??s 34 school buildings are 40 years or older.

      Several buildings need structural improvements.

      Dr. Belcher said all of the buildings need more space for more students.