New Albany-Plain Local School District officials are hoping for the best as they await the final vote count on Issue 50, the district's combined bond issue and operating levy.
The measure was approved 4,737 votes to 4,650 votes, according to unofficial results from the Franklin County Board of Elections on Nov. 6. However, the 87-vote margin does not take into account all absentee and provisional ballots.
"I don't know what the provisional ballots could contain but we're optimistic that it will go in our favor," said district spokesman Patrick Gallaway.
Dana Walch, deputy director of the Franklin County Board of Elections, said absentee ballots postmarked by Nov. 5 can be received up to 10 days after the election and provisional ballots have not been counted.
The board has to start counting those ballots by Nov. 21, but the ballots must first be checked by staff and approved by the board of elections, Walch said.
Official results won't be released until Nov. 27.
Gallaway said the school district will not move forward with any plans for a new building until the Issue 50 results are official.
"We're still in a holding pattern," Gallaway said.
The district released the following statement Nov. 7: "Although we do not know the final outcome of the election, it looks like we are on our way to victory. As we now know based on results posted by the Franklin County Board of Elections, Issue 50 is ahead by 87 votes. This difference eliminates the potential of an automatic recount. If the trend in the outstanding provisional ballots follows our election night trend, we should be successful. ... Provisional ballots will be counted in 10 days."
Levy supporters had an unusual evening Nov. 6 as they watched results from New Albany High School's Jefferson Room.
At 9:15 p.m., the vote appeared to be tied at 4,421 based on calculations district officials made from results called in by volunteers from each polling location.
In addition, one household in Licking County was eligible to vote on Issue 50. When the single vote from the Licking County Board of Elections was reported at 9:30 p.m., Issue 50 was ahead by one.
A little after 11:30 p.m., the Franklin County Board of Elections website was updated with all 21 of the county precincts reporting, indicating Issue 50 was approved 4,554 votes to 4,515 votes. That 39-vote margin, or any margin that fell within one-half of 1 percent, would necessitate an automatic recount per state law.
Results posted early Nov. 7 by the Franklin County Board of Elections added to the previous vote totals and brought the district's margin of approval up to 87 votes, a 0.9 percent margin that would not require the automatic recount.
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.
The bond issue would pay for a new non-grade specific building for 1,200 students and provide $11.4 million for site improvements, according to district officials. 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.
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 increase class sizes.
Officials 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 2014-2015 school year and even more in following years," with cuts likely including "reduction of staff, elimination of programs and reduction of service," Gallaway has said.
District officials have referred to the 4.24-mill continuous levy as a "two-year levy" because it would prevent a deficit only in 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.
School board President Laura 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 costs about $750 per year per $100,000 of assessed property value, or about $3,000 for the owner of a $400,000 home.