Issue 4 campaigners for an additional 9-mill levy for the Gahanna-Jefferson school district say they are getting positive feedback about the district but negative thoughts on paying more taxes.

Issue 4 campaigners for an additional 9-mill levy for the Gahanna-Jefferson school district say they are getting positive feedback about the district but negative thoughts on paying more taxes.

"I think they're happy about the education. They're not happy about having to pay more for it," said Scott McComb, one of the levy co-chairs.

Information from the school and the levy campaign states, "Without Issue 4, Gahanna-Jefferson will face a $2.5-million deficit for the next school year and a $16-million deficit for the 2011-2012 school year."

Heather Bishoff, who serves on the campaign's organizing committee, said one of the biggest questions from residents is about state funding. Part of the state-funding calculation includes a factor many districts participate in, called a guarantee. Gahanna-Jefferson in 2009 received $8-million in state aid and $3-million from the guarantee, totaling $11-million.

Gahanna-Jefferson treasurer Julio Valladares said the district this year is expected to receive $2-million in state aid and $9-million through the guarantee, which also totals $11-million.

"The main purpose of the guarantee is to protect districts from getting any less money from the previous year whenever the funding calculation changes," Valladares said.

Scott Blake, a spokesman from the Ohio Department of Education, said the guarantee was given as a flat fee in the 2008-09 school year. For the 2009-10 school year, it was given as a percentage.

"The way it's calculated isn't any different," Blake said. "But this year it was given as a percentage of the prior year's funding."

McComb said it's confusing to try and explain issues like that to voters.

"The way this state collects taxes and the way the state has it set up for school funding, most districts have to be on the ballot every three years," he said.

Gahanna-Jefferson has asked voters for two levies in the past 12 years. Valladares explained to the school board earlier this year that the previous levy a 7.9-mill operating levy passed in May 2006 generated $11,515,327 annually for the district, according to the Franklin County Auditor's Office. The levy was expected to last three years, but the district was able to extend those funds to last through December 2010.

During this school year, the district cut $1-million from the budget, and assistant superintendent Mark White, who will take over as superintendent when Gregg Morris retires in August, has recommended working without an assistant superintendent after August.

Morris said the district had more than one assistant superintendent when he joined the district 14 years ago. He said at least one of those positions was cut for funding reasons, but the district for many years has had at least one assistant superintendent.

Gahanna residents held a "tea party" event April 24, and questions about the schools came up. One of the questions was on Clark Hall, a new high school addition being built at the northwest corner of Hamilton Road and Granville Street. Tea party organizers questioned the land purchase and the way the new building is being funded.

Organizer Michael Dehlendorf said none of the school officials attended the tea party. He said school officials agreed to meet with them and answer questions but said he wants such a meeting to be public with media coverage.

"This is not a private matter," he said.

About 50 people attended the event, most of them senior citizens, Dehlendorf said.

School officials have defended the building of Clark Hall, saying the high school already is crowded, with some school functions held in residential homes across from the school on Hamilton Road. Clark Hall will be a three-story building with classroom space on the second and third floors. It originally was proposed to have retail space on the first floor to help generate revenue for the building through space rental.

Since then, the Eastland-Fairfield Career & Technical Schools and an unnamed higher-education entity have expressed interest in leasing the entire first floor of that building, devoting it entirely to education.

Because the district purchased the entire 6.8-acre former Kroger site, school officials say there is space for two more buildings, which a developer would construct via an agreement with the district. Money generated from leased space in those two buildings would be returned to the school to help pay for the building of Clark Hall.

Only six-tenths of a mill of the 9-mill levy would be devoted to Clark Hall. Morris has said the building would not require additional staff, only perhaps a custodian and secretary.

The three-year, 9.0-mill levy is estimated to generate $13,375,000 annually by the first full year of collections, Valladares said. If approved, the levy would cost an additional $275.63 annually for every $100,000 of assessed property value.

The pro-levy Citizens for Quality Schools group has three campaign chairs: McComb, president and chief executive officer of Heartland Bank; Dewitt Harrell, chief financial officer of the Columbus Metropolitan Library; and Ellen Murphy, a human-resources consultant with Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co.

Campaign information is available at www.gjpslevy.org.

lwince@thisweeknews.com