Bond, levy request

School district’s Issue 50 too close to call Nov. 6

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JOSHUA A. BICKEL/THISWEEKNEWS
Mike Klein, vice president of the New Albany-Plain Local school board, waits for election results to come in Nov. 6, at New Albany High School.
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Issue 50, the New Albany-Plain Local School District’s combined bond issue and operating levy request, likely will be decided by provisional ballots.

According to unofficial results from the Franklin County Board of Elections on Nov. 6, Issue 50 was approved 4,554 to 4,515, with all 21 of the school district’s county precincts reporting.

However, those results did not include one household in Licking County and provisional ballots that could be counted within the next 10 days.

The lone Licking County voter in the school district voted in favor of the levy, according to the Licking County Board of Elections.

The 39-vote margin, or any margin that falls within one-half of 1 percent, would necessitate an automatic recount per state law.

“We have to wait for provisionals and we believe there would be a need for an automatic recount either way,” Superintendent April Domine said. “We’re waiting for the process and hoping for best possible outcome for our kids.”

School board President Laura Kohler said depending on what happens after the provisional votes are counted, the school board may have some difficult decisions to make.

“As difficult a situation as it may be, we will keep the needs of the students in the forefront and not waver in our commitment to the district’s vision and mission,” Kohler said.

John McClelland, the district's campaign manager, said if Issue 50 were rejected, the district’s situation would not change.

“The number of students is only going to continue to grow and the space we have is not,” McClelland said. “We will have to add more trailers or a new building and the community will have to decide which direction we are going to take. It’s a simple math problem.”

Issue 50 included a 2.59-mill bond issue that would generate $45.1 million and a 4.24-mill continuous operating levy that would generate $3.51 million.

According to district officials, the bond issue would pay for a new non-grade specific building for 1,200 students and $11.4 million for site improvements. The levy would prevent a deficit in fiscal year 2015.

Issue 50 would cost property owners $209.24 per year – about $130 for the levy and $79 for the bond issue – per $100,000 of assessed property value. The owner of a home valued at $400,000, for example, would pay about $837 per year in additional property taxes for the bond and levy.

McClelland said the community recognizes the district’s problems but said campaign workers knew the vote would be close because of “tough economic times.”

“Our community clearly was divided on this issue,” he said. “As a whole, we need to make a decision on what kind of community we want to be and what kind of schools we want to provide for our kids. That debate does not end tonight.”

District officials have said the bond issue, currently estimated at a term of 37 years, is important because the schools have reached a critical enrollment level. If Issue 50 is rejected, the district would have to order more modular classrooms and increased class size.

They said the permanent levy is necessary because the district’s 2008 operating levy has been stretched as far as it can go with the increasing enrollment.

Without the new levy, the district also would have to cut “millions of dollars from our budget in the 2014-15 school year and even more in following years,” with cuts likely including “reduction of staff, elimination of programs and reduction of service,” said district spokesman Patrick Gallaway.

District officials have referred to the 4.24-mill continuous levy as a “two-year levy” because it would prevent a deficit only the next two fiscal years. It would require the district to go back to the ballot in 2014, at which time district officials have promised to prove their fiscal responsibility to voters.

Kohler said the district chose the permanent levy over an emergency levy because the emergency levy would expire in two years and the permanent levy will continue after 2014. She said district officials are seeking to develop a “stair-step approach to funding district operations.”

The district currently is funded by the 24.4-mill permanent operating levy that voters approved in 2008 to collect $21.7 million per year – almost half of the district’s roughly $50 million budget. The continuing levy, which was a first for the district, costs about $750 per year per $100,000 of assessed property value, or about $3,000 for the owner of a $400,000 home.


 

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