Q. What will be on the ballot on November 5, 2019?
- An operating levy of 5.9 mills combined with a 1.95 mill bond issue that will generate $103 million
- It will be two paragraphs on the ballot with one question to voters
Q. I heard only people who live within the City of Westerville will be able to vote on this issue. Is that true?
- No. Any registered voter who lives within the Westerville City School District attendance area can vote on Westerville City School District ballot issues, including Issue 8 on the November 5, 2019, general election ballot. Many people mistakenly believe that if they don’t live within the actual City of Westerville, they are not eligible to vote on ballot issues for the Westerville City Schools. That is not true! As long as you live in an area served by the Westerville City School District, our school issues will be on your ballot and you will be able to vote on them.
Q. I heard the District could get money for buildings from a state agency. Does this plan include that opportunity?
- Yes, the District has entered into a partnership program with the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) that will allow for a potential credit for Phase 2 of the Facilities Master Plan of 35% of eligible projects
- The OFCC has conducted a facilities assessment and enrollment projections at no cost to the District
Q. How much money will the operating issue generate annually for the district?
- The county auditor estimated the annual revenue amount at $15.6 million
Q. Will this operating levy pay to open, staff and run the proposed new buildings?
- Yes, if voters approve this ballot issue, the District will be able to build and operate both new schools
Q. What is the cost of the new bond issue and operating levy to taxpayers?
- The bond issue is estimated at $68.25 annually per $100,000 of property value
- The operating levy is estimated at $206.50 annually per $100,000 of property value
- The total additional monthly cost is $22.89 per $100,000 of property value
- The total additional annual cost is $274.75 per $100,000 of property value
Q. The county auditor shows both market value and assessed/taxable value, which one should I use to calculate my annual and monthly costs using the above amounts?
- The $100,000 property value calculation provided above is based on market value
- What is assessed/taxable value?
- Assessed/taxable value is 35% of a property’s market value
Q. How many years will the levy and bond issue be collected?
- The operating levy is permanent (you may also hear this referred to as being for a “continuing period of time”) and will not appear on a taxpayer’s bill until calendar year 2021
- The bond issue is for 37 years and will appear on a taxpayer’s bill in calendar year 2020
Q. What is the difference between a bond issue and an operating levy?
- The bond issue can only be used for capital improvements, such as constructing school facilities; renovating, improving and constructing additions to school facilities, including safety and security improvements; furnishing and equipping the facilities; improving the sites of the buildings; and acquiring land and interests in land
- The operating levy generates revenue for the school district’s general fund, which pays for the operations of the school district including classrooms, support for classrooms, utilities, business operations, transportation services and everything in between
Q. Why do school districts need to pass so many operating levies?
- The state funds approximately 33% of the school district’s general operations and local property taxes support approximately 60%. The school district also receives revenue from federal and other sources.
- Property tax levies are designed, through House Bill 920 reduction factors, to generate an amount of revenue based on when the levy was passed by voters.
- For example with this ballot issue, the county auditor estimates that the school district would receive an additional amount of revenue in the amount of $15.6 million annually from the operating levy beginning in calendar year 2021. When the county auditor assesses the same tax in calendar year 2022 and every year after that, it would set the millage amount so that the school district will receive approximately $15.6 million annually. So even if property values increase, the school district will not receive any additional revenue from that levy. The only exception to that is the school district would receive new revenue from the levy for any new construction.
- House Bill 920 was enacted in 1976 to protect taxpayers against rising taxes due to property values increasing. What that also means is that the school district does not receive increases in revenue that keep up with inflation and the cost of doing business.
- The last time the District asked for new money was in 2012. The total effective rate for residential property was 59.03 mills after that levy at the time. Due to the effects of House Bill 920 reduction factors, the total effective millage for residential property is now 53.24 mills. That is a reduction of 5.79 mills.
In order for the school district to maintain programs and services as costs rise, the school district needs to ask voters for new taxes. As enrollment grows, the need for additional revenue becomes greater.
Q. I keep hearing that the school district hasn’t asked voters for new money in 7 years, but I remember voting on a school levy in 2016. Why is the school district saying that?
- The last time there was levy for a new tax in the school district was in 2012.
- The levy that was approved by voters in 2016 replaced the 2012 levy that was set to expire, so it was not new.
Q. What about the Win-Win agreement, won’t Columbus just take our buildings/land/students?
- No. A new agreement was approved in 2016 that phases out payments to the Columbus City Schools over five years and makes the boundaries of the Westerville City School District permanent, effectively eliminating the traditional Win-Win agreement.
Q. Who pays property taxes to Westerville City Schools?
- All commercial and residential properties within the Westerville City School District boundaries pay the same respective tax rate for school taxes to the Westerville City School District.
- The Westerville City School District serves students who live within the attendance boundaries of the school district, which differs from the surrounding city and township boundaries.
- In addition to the City of Westerville, the attendance boundaries of the Westerville City School District includes portions of the City of Columbus, Blendon Township, Genoa Township and all of Minerva Park.
Q. Is there any tax relief available for senior citizens?
- Low income senior citizens and permanently and totally disabled residents may be eligible for the State of Ohio’s Homestead Exemption, which can exempt up to $25,000 of property value from taxes
- Residents can contact the County Auditor’s Office to apply for the Homestead Exemption.
Q. Why does the district need to build two more schools? Can’t we just add on to existing buildings at a reduced cost?
Independent authorities did study that option and determined that additions to existing schools would cost more than building two new schools.
Q. Why doesn’t our district charge fees to developers to help cover the cost of education additional students?
There are legal limitations to how school districts can raise revenue. Right now, there’s no mechanism that lets us charge developers for revenue. In fact, the law allows the opposite. Developers often receive incentives over a limited period of time that reduce the revenue we otherwise would be receiving.
Q. Isn’t there a way to make it so only the homes that will benefit from the new schools should have to pay for them?
No. The district cannot charge a fee to families for the basic cost of educating students. Federal law states that every school-age child is entitled to a “Free Appropriate Public Education.” However, we are allowed to charge for things provided over and above our basic instructional program, such as extracurricular activities and All-Day Kindergarten.
Q. We have heard people say that we educate many people outside of Westerville. Is that true?
In addition to the City of Westerville, the attendance boundaries of the Westerville City School District include portions of the City of Columbus, Blendon Township, Genoa Township, and all of Minerva Park. Students who reside within the school district’s boundaries can attend our schools, and their parents/guardians all pay the same tax rates to our schools. We’ve created a short video to address that question.
Q. Can people outside of the City of Westerville vote on the issue?
Yes. All residents eligible to vote that live within the school district attendance boundaries will have Issue 8 on their ballot.
Q. Will we see high school redistricting?
No. Our current high schools are large enough to handle the enrollment growth we are expecting over the next 10 years. Therefore, there is no plan to build a new high school or change high school attendance boundaries at this time.
Q. Will Blendon Middle School be used as swing space?
No. One possible scenario the board reviewed was to close Blendon as a middle school after the new middle school opened, and to house students from other buildings in Blendon while their school building was being renovated. This is referred to as using Blendon for “swing space.” After reviewing this option, the district determined that there would not be enough available space based on enrollment projections and the community feedback did not support that option.
Q. After investing in security and safety upgrades, what is being done for mental health services?
The district continually reviews staffing needs throughout the district based on student needs, enrollment growth and programming needs. Through this, the district continues to strengthen its mental health team through hiring additional staff as needed, providing the most up-to-date training, and partnering with various organizations to ensure we have the resources necessary to support them. We have hired several new mental health positions over the past few years and this continues to be a prioritized area.
Q. Over 20 years ago, the DeRolph case found school funding unconstitutional. Are we still following that and doing anything to try to reduce our local tax burden?
The board of education and district leadership continue to express these same concerns to our legislators and advocate for a school funding model that reduces a reliance on local property taxes. District leaders and board members consistently meet with legislators to address tough issues affecting Westerville Schools, including school funding. The state has the Fair School Funding Plan that was introduced as House Bill 305. It has gone through several versions since it was first proposed as part of the 2020-2021 state budget and there will still be many more changes made. We encourage residents to reach out to their state legislators and ask them to support a school funding plan that’s good for Westerville. Through thoughtful planning and stretching resources, the district has not asked voters for new taxes in seven years.
Q. Why were the bond and operating issues combined?
The decision to combine these issues is due to need. The district cannot continue to maintain current programming and address projected enrollment growth without both the bond and operating issues. We did not want to find ourselves in a situation where we built new schools but didn’t have the operating revenue to open them.
Q. When are the news schools going to be done, as well as redistricting?
The new elementary school is anticipated to open in the fall of 2022 and the new middle school is anticipated to open in the fall of 2023. Once we know we have the resources to build these schools, we will work with the community to determine attendance boundaries.
Note that the district has heard various questions asked about redistricting, including when it would occur, how it would be decided which students get to attend the new schools, and the demographic composition of the student body at these schools. District officials are committed to creating opportunities for all stakeholders to engage in the process of determining attendance boundaries if Issue #8 is approved, and also boundary modifications in the event the issue is not supported. Regardless of the outcome, the district will need to adjust boundaries to address enrollment growth and capacity issues.
Q. When will the South renovation be complete?
The Westerville South renovations will include five phases and is estimated to be completed by the fall of 2024.
Q. What is the average class size for elementary and middle?
Class sizes vary from building to building, but average around 25.
Q. Why are we just now focusing on safety? Haven’t we been doing anything recently to improve the safety and security of our schools?
Some have alleged we’ve been neglecting safety initiatives, or that our priorities are misaligned. That’s simply not true. Local first responders have been with us every step of the way and their professional input has been invaluable to our safety initiatives over the years. We’ve done a lot to bring significant safety training and resources to our schools, but we’re now at a point where it’s time to make some physical changes to our school entryways to make them safer. If you’d like to hear about all we’ve done in recent years to improve the safety of our schools, watch this presentation given at a recent Board of Education meeting.
Q. The district got a C on the state report card. What’s being done to improve academics?
There’s a lot being done to improve academics, and we’re making gains. Would we like our improvements to happen faster? Absolutely. Overall, we're moving in the right direction. Our state-issued grades held steady on four of the six standards, and we improved on the remaining two. Our overall Academic Achievement grade is up this year, and our most improved grade occurred in the Progress component, which is the growth that all students have made based on their prior performance on state tests. Our grade for Gap Closing held steady, as did our Graduation Rate grade. We met one more state testing indicator than last year, and despite earning one of our highest Performance Index scores in recent years, our grade held steady on that measure. Every year, once we receive our final results, we analyze the data at both the district and school levels. It's also a great benefit to see how other districts performed, because if we follow the trends we're seeing from others, then all of our results are probably being impacted by the adjustments and formulas that the state has put into place for the year. But, if we see something unusual as compared to others, that's a red flag we have to investigate more thoroughly. Thankfully, our results have trended closely with those of other districts across the state, as well as our similar districts. While I would love to see our growth happen a bit faster than we've experienced lately, it's certainly not for lack of effort. I know that our staff members have been working extremely hard to give our students an exceptional school experience while helping them to improve their performance on these assessments. I'd like to thank everyone for their continued work to keep our students focused and headed toward the ultimate goal of graduating with a diploma from our district. If you’re interested in learning more, you can watch a presentation on the state report card by clicking this link.
Q. What funding for these new schools will be needed in the future?
Any future funding requests will be part of the overall operations of the district and not specifically for the new schools proposed as part of this bond issue. Due to the nature of school funding in Ohio, district officials know that new funding will be needed at some point in the future, but also pledge to return to the ballot only when it is absolutely necessary. There are several variables that affect when the district would need to go back on the ballot in the future and how much will be needed. Because of House Bill 920, the district sees very little growth in revenues from property taxes without new voted levies.
Q. Why are there no walls in Annehurst?
That was a popular design in the 1970s referred to as an “open concept” school.
Q. Will more (facility) money be needed after phase one?
The district has a 10 year facilities master plan and Issue #8 addresses the first five years. Given the needs of the facilities, the district anticipates future bond issue requests for the second phase of the 10 year plan. The timing and amount will depend on the scope of the projects. There are two issues that will expire in fiscal year 2024 and fiscal year 2028, which would reduce the millage rates. Also, the district has partnered with the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission to allow for a 35% credit for current projects to be applied to future projects that are eligible for co-funding.
Q. If a home’s market value determines the tax assessment, is the lower value (35%) called the assessed/taxable value, or is the tax assessed on the higher value?
The market value is the value that your home would bring if it were sold. In the state of Ohio, residents pay taxes on 35% of the market value of their home. This is the “assessed value.” When the district talks about the cost to property owners in terms of property value, it is referring to the market value as determined by your county auditor. The county auditor appraises properties as a blanket approach and the market values do not usually match what you might see if you googled your address looking for its property value. Residents can visit their county auditor’s website and see what the county auditor has as the market value of their home.
Q. Can we go on the auditor’s website to get an estimate?
Yes, both Franklin and Delaware counties have levy estimators on their website.
Q. Does the Ohio Lottery money make it to the schools? If so, is it earmarked for specifics?
The Ohio Lottery money was not new money to schools. The state used lottery funds in place of other funds that were already earmarked for schools. The lottery funds did not add to the school’s funding. The lottery funds are accounted for in the general operating fund and are not earmarked for anything specific.
Q. Will the levy passed in 2016 to be on the ballot for replacement again in future?
No. The levy in 2016 was approved as a permanent levy. It’s also important to note that the 2016 levy was a replacement levy for the 2012 Emergency Levy set to expire in 2017. When the district says it has been seven years since it last requested new operating revenue, it’s because the 2016 levy was not new millage. It simply kept the existing millage from the 2012 levy in place.
Q. Are there any plans to close Hanby?
No. Current enrollment projections show that the district needs all the available space currently in use, including Hanby.
Q. Will we be replacing Central College with new buildings?
There are no plans to replace Central College at this time. The school is beyond repair, so it will be demolished and the district will keep the land in case it is needed for future use.
Q. People who send children to private schools still have to pay property taxes, correct?
Yes, everyone residing within the district boundaries pays the same tax rate. The district also provides various supports to private school students.
Q. If we are planning to build a new middle school, will we need to build a new high school?
The district does not anticipate the need for a new high school based on the current enrollment projections.
Q. What is the plan if this doesn’t pass?
The district believes the plan put forth reflects what the community has indicated it wants for students in terms of academics and facilities. If the issue is not successful, district officials will re-engage the community for additional input.
Q. When the community was approached about the new schools needed etc., I thought I heard there would be no new money needed?
The district stated that the scope of the identified projects would determine how much could be done without needing to go to the voters. District officials reviewed several options for facilities and was able to leverage current resources to complete a full renovation to Westerville South High School and start to enhance safety and security throughout the district. The bond portion of Issue #8 will allow the district to address the additional needs of the first five years of the facilities master plan, including additional safety and security updates.