School board race fact checker - part 2

Written by ONE Olentangy on .

As mentioned previously, ONE Olentangy will continue to fact check all four school board candidates’ support pieces. 

ONE Olentangy’s second school board race fact checker is the joint Katy Barricklow/Brian Helwig postcard. 

Below in italics on the left are postcard statements made by Helwig and Barricklow and to the right are the facts obtained by ONE Olentangy. Listed are statements that are factual errors, misleading statements, and statements that deserve clarification for the readers’ sake.



 Postcard statement  






"Olentangy Schools currently have a debt burden of over $348 million That is $20,555 per student."

Clarification  While the statement is mathematically accurate, it shows a lack of understanding of basic financial accounting. The debt is a result of buying land, building schools, and other capital purchases. The bonds for building schools are repaid over a 28-year period. At the end of that period the assets still remain - the actual school buildings and the land. According to district data, the annual debt service including interest is currently $1,660 per student.

"Olentangy Schools Superintendent's compensation   package costs taxpayers $249,796 per year. Superintendent's base pay is more than the Governor of Ohio's."              

Clarification  According to district records, the figure listed on this postcard for Superintendent Wade Lucas is within the range of his annual compensation, which fluctuates as it includes a base salary of $166,464 plus benefits.

The Ohio Governor position is an elected position, whereas a district superintendent position is a competitive position, where school districts try to attract the best candidates among those available. This means attracting and retaining the best CEO in public education who will meet the demands of a particular district.

"Board approved paying a teacher $107,000 a year to teach one class per day."

Factual error  According to a records request, the school administration has no knowledge of any teacher being paid $107,000 per year or any teacher teaching only one class per day.

Barricklow and Helwig might be referring to teacher Elaine Eddy. Eddy is a long-time teacher who is also president of the Olentangy Teachers' Association (OTA). According to a records request, Eddy earns $94,619 and has no current supplementals (supplementals are additional compensation for duties outside of teaching duties, such as coaching or supervising a club). Eddy teaches two classes and has other teacher-related duties during the school day. She has a lighter teaching load due to her position as OTA president. As a result, the OTA reimburses the Olentangy School District for a portion of her salary annually. Per the records request, the district expects to be reimbursed $34,626 this year.

"'Elevated debt burden and relatively high debt service costs compared to total expenditures.' Moody's Bond Rating Service" Clarification  This statement is accurate and is listed as one of the challenges within the body of the rating action. However, it only reflects one statement in Moody's report. Moody's Summary Ratings Rationale for rating Olentangy at the second highest credit rating level states, "Assignment of the Aa1 rating reflects the district's large, diverse, and affluent tax base located near the City of Columbus (general obligation rated Aaa/stable outlook), strong financial position that benefits from healthy reserve levels and voter support for operating levies, and elevated debt levels that are expected to moderate over the medium term as the district projects a slowdown of its capital borrowing." In the list of strengths, Moody's goes on to say, "Strong financial operations supported by history of voter support for operating and bond levies over last decade. Proactive management team." According to Brad Sprague, the district's financial advisor, only five school districts in Ohio have a higher Moody's rating than Olentangy. To see Moody's entire report for Olentangy, click here.
"...reduce Olentangy's run away debt burden."




 Misleading statement  The district's debt exists due to unprecedented enrollment growth, which required school buildings to be built and was approved by voters. According to a records request to Olentangy administration, "The debt is related to capital costs including but not limited to construction of new schools, school buses, technology equipment, replacing roofs, etc. Debt is not used for operations." This is similar to the debt a homeowner owes on a house, not a credit card. There are physical assets behind the debt. 

There are no new buildings scheduled on the district's most recent five-year forecast. The district, with the help of members of Project 2020, is researching creative ways to try to handle enrollment growth at the high school level without building a fourth high school. And, it bears repeating, Moody's states in its Summary Ratings Rationale, "... elevated debt levels that are expected to moderate over the medium term as the district projects a slowdown of its capital borrowing."

Therefore, to describe Olentangy as having "run away debt" is misleading. 

So far, no King or Feasel campaign materials have been received, but ONE Olentangy will fact check those when available.

Reminder: Residents still have time to vote by mail by printing the form found here, filling it out and mailing it to the Delaware County Board of Elections. Residents can also vote early at the Vote Center at 149 E Orange Rd in Lewis Center. Open Monday through Friday, 8a.m.- 6p.m. More information can be found here.

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