On Wednesday, November 11, 2015, the Olentangy school board voted to put a combined funding issue on the March 2016 ballot. The combined issue includes an operating levy, bond issue and permanent improvement levy, and puts the decision about whether or not Olentangy will continue to provide the same level of performance and opportunities for students into voters’ hands.
If passed, the estimated cost to taxpayers for the 6.9-mill ballot issue is $241.50 per $100,000 of home valuation. The one-vote combined ballot issue will consist of three components.
The first component is a bond issue. The bond issue includes building a fourth high school to be opened in August 2018. As ONE Olentangy reported earlier here
, the district’s Facilities Committee has spent several months reviewing options to manage the current and projected high school enrollment. The Facilities Committee is made up of community members with expertise in architecture, engineering and construction and has saved Olentangy taxpayers tens of millions of dollars since its inception in the mid-1990s. The projections show total high school enrollment in the 2018-19 school year to be more than 6,600 students in facilities with a total design capacity of 4,800 (1,600 each). The Facilities Committee does not consider the high school capacity issues to be a short-term bubble. In fact, total high school enrollment is anticipated to remain in excess of 6,600 students for 39 years, with 12 of those years in excess of 7,200 students.
Superintendent Mark Raiff was quoted in this Columbus Dispatch article
, saying, “A fourth high school may best address the high-school overcrowding and enable us to provide the same academic and extracurricular opportunities we currently provide. These opportunities are what make us Olentangy.”
The bond issue also includes purchasing the Olentangy Academy building. The Academy building houses four programs – OASIS, STEM, the Mentorship class, which provides seniors with internships, and the Academy for Community Transition. The district has the option to purchase this building for $2.23 million, which it is currently paying $200,000 per year to lease.
The rest of the bond issue will be used to purchase buses and fully or partially replace roofs on specific buildings.
The bond should not increase the school bond millage to current residents. Instead, this debt will be structured so that future residents pay more of their fair share of the total cost of the bond package. In other words, taxpayers should not see an increase in their school bond tax rate, something referred to as “no additional millage” financing.
The second component is a 5.9-mill operating levy, which will be used for day-to-day operations for all Olentangy schools. It allows the district to hire and retain quality teachers and other personnel in order to meet the needs of the district’s continued enrollment growth. It was noted in a previous school board meeting that other school districts in central Ohio have built schools but then were unable to open them on time because they didn’t pass a levy to cover the costs of operating the schools. Those buildings sat idle. This operating levy will ensure that the new high school will open when construction is completed in August 2018.
The third component is a 1-mill permanent improvement levy (PI). A PI may only be used for maintenance and repairs. PI funds may not be used for general operating funds. The PI will provide roughly $3.2 million each year for general maintenance for the district’s facilities as well as technology infrastructure and equipment.
Olentangy’s last ballot issue was in May 2011 and was projected to meet the district’s financial needs for 3 years. Due to significant cost savings initiatives, the district has been off the ballot for 5 years.
ONE Olentangy encourages residents to learn more information about the ballot issue during this time leading up to the March 15th vote. There are many resources available, such as contacting Olentangy administrators with questions, including the Superintendent, the district’s Communications Director and building Principals.