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Residential growth and its impact on enrollment - how concerned should residents be?

Written by ONE Olentangy on .

Since the posting of ONE Olentangy’s article about the multitude of apartment complexes proposed throughout the Olentangy district (see Under the Radar), two question have been asked repeatedly: What can residents do? And what can the district do?
 
Obviously, residential growth has an impact on traffic, roads and basic infrastructure. But another major byproduct of that growth is the effects on the schools. Just what are those effects and can the district help slow the growth? 
 
According to Jeff Gordon, Director of Business Management at Olentangy Local School District, school districts in general don’t have any direct control over the zoning or type of developments within their boundaries.  The district can only make the developers and government officials aware of the impact to the school district when a development is proposed.
 
Compounding the complexities for Olentangy are the multitude of cities and townships within the district’s boundaries. Each authority has its own zoning code and approval processes. Moreover, state laws allow for developers to petition to annex into a different zoning authority. For example, several new developments that were planned for land that was originally in Orange Township have been annexed into Columbus at developers’ requests. This is often done to take advantage of more relaxed zoning requirements. Regardless of the zoning authority, if the development is within Olentangy Local School District boundaries, the district is responsible for those students.  
 
“I have attended zoning meetings across the district to address the impact of the proposed development in the district,” Gordon said. “I am scheduled to attend three zoning meetings over the next month regarding multi-family developments.”  
 
Gordon said he and the district’s Development Committee will continue to monitor new development and work closely with local governments to make them aware of the impact developments could have on the district. The Development Committee, a group of district taxpayers with extensive professional expertise in construction, architecture and technology, monitors residential growth in the district, among its many other responsibilities.
 
When the district and the Development Committee evaluate the potential impact of any proposed development, they focus on what is called an expected ‘yield factor.’ This figure is the number of students that are expected to enroll in the schools from each residential unit, whether it is a single-family home or an apartment. Historically, according to Gordon, Olentangy has experienced a .15 yield factor from apartments, which means that for every apartment unit, .15 children will enroll in Olentangy schools. At that yield factor, the district often generates more revenue from the property taxes collected than it expends on the students coming from apartment complexes. 
 
 “As long as the new multi-family housing gives us a yield of students similar to that of current multi-family housing, we are likely to receive more tax revenue from these new multi-family developments than we will incur cost to educate the students coming from these new units,” Gordon explained.
 
However, if the apartment complexes attract more students than the current expected yield factor, the revenue-cost scenario changes and the district could have to spend more cost than the revenue generated from those apartment complexes. For this reason, Gordon often runs sensitivity analyses to find the effect of various yield factors on enrollment. Specifically, Gordon wrote in an analysis presented to the school board in Oct. 2012, “The additional students [from these apartment complexes] may create a need for redistricting or the addition of buildings earlier than anticipated.”
 
Apartments are not the district’s greatest worry when it comes to enrollment growth. Single-family homes historically have had far higher yield factors than apartments. However, the district remains concerned with growth from all residential development. 
 
“This continued growth is likely to increase the need for additional school buildings in the future. The cost to build and operate additional facilities would not be covered by the property taxes coming from new development in the district,” Gordon said. 
 
Should Olentangy need to add additional school buildings, it might be necessary to go back to the residents in the district for additional tax revenue to accommodate the growth. 
        
“Any concerned residents should always feel free to attend zoning, council or trustee meetings being held on these issues to express their view,” Gordon said.

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