Upper Arlington issue

UA voters hand school levy decisive victory

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Cheers and smiles greeted Upper Arlington Board of Education President Robert Arkin he walked to the front of the district’s boardroom Tuesday, Nov. 5, and said, “Excellence really does matter.”

He told members of Citizens for UA Schools, the group that came up with the “Excellence Matters” slogan, that Issue 52, the district’s 4-mill continuing operating levy, passed “by an overwhelming percentage.”

According to unofficial results from the Franklin County Board of Elections, the levy passed by 57.05 percent or 7,448 votes in favor and 42.95 percent or 5,607 votes against the tax issue.

“This was an overwhelming win,” Arkin said. “Our community has shown confidence in our school district and our leadership and we have a lot to be proud of.”

Superintendent Paul Imhoff called the successful campaign “a huge team effort.”

“I could not have imagined a better leadership team for this levy and this vote proves we have an amazing community and I am thankful for them,” he said. “We are all very blessed.”

The 4-mill operating levy is expected to generate about $6.3 million per year and cost homeowners an additional $140 per year for every $100,000 of home value, Treasurer Andy Geistfeld said.

Imhoff said the district is committed to going forward with efficiency.

“I want to thank every community member for your confidence in us and I want to tell you that we won’t let you down,” he said. “We are committed to accountability, efficiency and results and I just want to leave you with this: Go Bears!”

Imhoff said school district leaders will focus on continued excellence and accountability by creating an efficiency project that will implement budget reductions expected to save a cumulative $4.5 million over the next four years.

“We will also create a quality profile by asking the community what qualities they expect our school district to possess,” he said. “At the same time, we will work on a new strategic plan that will have clear, measurable goals designed to improve results.

“We want to stand on the shoulders of the people have made this school district what it is, and continue to improve. We will set our benchmarks against the finest school districts in central Ohio, and want to become not only the finest school district in the state, but the finest school district in the country.”

Educate UA, the same citizen group that lobbied against the district’s 5.8-mill levy which failed last year, also campaigned against Issue 52, saying teachers’ salaries and benefits were too high and the school district did not need an extra $6 million a year.

“Educate UA appreciated the opportunity to engage with the UA voter on the school levy,” Joyce Blake, a former Upper Arlington teacher and spokesperson for Educate UA, said Tuesday night.

“Having a vigorous debate can only make our community stronger,” she said. “We will watch closely over the next few months in hopes that the school district will live up to their promise to save $4.5 million over the next four years through their efficiency project.

“And we will watch the union negotiations in 2014 in hopes that the increased revenue stream of $6.3 million does not end up entirely in compensation.”