The Olentangy school board on Jan. 19 took the final step toward seeking a 7.9-mill operating levy, combined with a no-new-millage bond issue, in the May 3 election.
The board voted 4-0 to approve a resolution to place the three-year combined tax issue on the ballot. The filing deadline is Feb. 3.
Board members Julie Wagner Feasel, David King, Stacy Dunbar and Kevin O'Brien voted for the issue. Scott Galloway, who did not attend the meeting because of a previous commitment, previously had opposed a levy at 7.9 mills. He had favored a 6.9-mill levy.
O'Brien also had favored 6.9 mills until the Jan. 12 board meeting, when he voted "yes" on a resolution to move forward at 7.9 mills.
At the Jan. 19 meeting, O'Brien said the scenario for the levy had changed and he was more comfortable with going for 7.9 mills. In particular, district officials have now pledged to pursue budget reductions of about $5.5-million during the next three years instead of a previous budget reduction goal of $2.1-million.
"A balance was struck between what the district is willing to do and what we are asking the taxpayers to do," O'Brien said during the meeting.
Wagner Feasel, King and Dunbar have said that seeking anything lower than 7.9 mills could result in cutting academic programs. Galloway contended that 6.9 mills was feasible.
Board president Wagner Feasel said the process to determine a fair millage amount had been well-debated and discussed throughout the community over the past few months.
"I've been working on levies in this district since 2000," she said. "Going on the ballot is never easy."
If voters approve the combined tax issue, the owner of a $100,000 home will pay an additional $241.94 annually in taxes. The county auditor has determined the levy would raise $25.2-million a year.
The bond issue would require no new millage because the district would restructure its current bond debt. It would raise $24.4-million to build a new elementary school and pay for textbooks and some capital improvement projects.
Lewis Center resident C.J. Fenrick, speaking during the public comment segment of the meeting prior to the vote, said he opposed the tax issue.
"I'm a homeowner for a long period of time," he said. "I have no children in this district. ... As a senior (citizen), you are going to price me out of this community."
He said he currently pays about $6,000 annually in property taxes. While Fenrick said he doesn't blame Olentangy schools for the way schools are funded in Ohio, he said the state legislature needs to do something about that.
Also at the Jan. 19 meeting, superintendent Wade Lucas told the board that beginning this spring, Gallup Inc. will begin a long-term study in the district to try to detemine if teacher well-being affects student achievement.
The district has about 1,100 teachers and participation in the study would be voluntary. The study will be paid for by Gallup and would look at five major areas — careers, finances, health, personal issues and community.
"Most of these studies have been done in the private sector," Lucas told the board.
Such a study could help improve teachers' health and job performance. If this is successful, other school district employees could be part of a study, too, he said.
Following the meeting, Lucas said he had discussions last summer with Jim Mahoney, executive director of Battelle For Kids, and the idea for such a study came up. Gallup was contacted and agreed to do the study.
"What happens between 4 p.m. and 8 a.m. (to teachers) and does that have an effect on students?" Lucas said outside the meeting. "The results won't come back for two or three years."