It has been touted by the school district as a "Chance of a Lifetime." Ultimately, Grove City-area and Columbus voters will decide Nov. 4 if new taxes proposed by South-Western City Schools truly are that chance.

It has been touted by the school district as a "Chance of a Lifetime." Ultimately, Grove City-area and Columbus voters will decide Nov. 4 if new taxes proposed by South-Western City Schools truly are that chance.

According to the Franklin County Board of Elections, Issue 81 -- a combined bond issue and operating levy -- asks residents to allow the district to raise almost $262-million at a rate of 6.33 mills over 28 years for the bond issue. According to information from district treasurer Hugh Garside, the operating levy will add about $16-million to school revenues, keeping the school budget's bottom line black until fiscal year 2012.

Ballot language for the tax issue was approved by Franklin County officials in July, using three assumptions: an estimated interest rate for the sale of the bonds; the bonds would be issued in one series, paid with equal payments; and property values in the district would remain the same over the 28-year life of the bond.

District officials said in September that these assumptions will change and will result in a different millage rate for the bond issue. Instead of 6.33 mills necessary to issue bonds to pay 53 percent of a $438-million facilities overhaul plan, the district projects a maximum impact to taxpayers of 3.69 mills for the bond issue.

Officials said the ballot language does not accurately reflect the actual taxpayer impact.

Because of the recent passage of House Bill 562, sale of bonds can now be segmented, meaning the district can sell bonds as they need them over the projected 10 years of the master plan to upgrade facilities across the district.

The other 47 percent of the $438-million project will be provided by the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission through tobacco master settlement funds in the amount of $205.8-million.

According to SWCS information, the total annual impact to taxpayers will come to 9.69 mills, or about $300 for every $100,000 of property valuation, or about $601 for every $200,000.

If passed, new taxes raised will allow the execution of a master facilities plan approved in May by a steering committee comprised of community members, school district officials and engineers from a Dublin-based developer called DeJONG Inc.

Insight for the project was gathered over the spring from responses to 479 questionnaires completed in a series of community meetings and online surveys.

Steering committee members discussed the responses in more than 45 meetings. When committee members recommended a plan to school board members for approval, their representative said they recognized the current economic environment and chose the most cost-effective of school facilities plans.

The approved plan involves adding 13 new elementary schools, maintaining intermediate grade configurations, replacing four middle schools and rebuilding Franklin Heights High School. It also includes all-day, everyday kindergarten, elimination of all modular buildings and community use of district facilities.

If the proposal for new taxes fails, facilities in the school district will remain unchanged and officials will need to make necessary cuts to keep the district budget balanced.

SWCS officials said they will either need to pass a levy, borrow money or make about $5-million in budget cuts to keep a balanced budget by 2010. The chance to secure OSFC funds will have been lost, however, and the school district will ineligible for them for a year.

ebrooks@thisweeknews.com