Westerville school officials and volunteers campaigning for the district's 3.59-mill capital improvements levy on May 5 say their biggest concern in gaining voter approval is the ballot language itself.

Westerville school officials and volunteers campaigning for the district's 3.59-mill capital improvements levy on May 5 say their biggest concern in gaining voter approval is the ballot language itself.

School district residents in the city of Westerville, in the city of Columbus, in Delaware County and in Genoa Township will be asked to approve or reject the following when they go to the polls next week: "A renewal of two and seven-tenths (2.70) mills and an increase of one and one-quarter mills (1.25) to constitute a tax for the benefit of the Westerville City School District, Franklin and Delaware Counties, Ohio for the purpose of providing for permanent improvements for the School District at a rate not exceeding three and ninety-five (3.95) mills for each one dollar of valuation, which amounts to thirty-nine and one-half cents ($0.395) for each one hundred dollars of valuation, for a continuing period of time, commencing in 2009, first due in calendar year 2010."

Pay attention to the word "increase." This is one of those cases in which the required legal language says one thing but the end result is different.

Here's what will happen if the capital improvements levy renewal is approved:

The 2.34 mills that taxpayers are already paying will be renewed. There will be no increase in the tax rate.

Money generated by the 2.34 mills will be collected starting in January 2010, but collecting of funds from the additional 1.25 mills won't start until 2011. That's when the district's bond millage rate will drop by 1.4 mills.

Because the amount of the millage decrease in 2011 is higher than the millage increase, the end result for taxpayers is no new millage.

In an effort to eliminate what board of education members saw as "voter fatigue," the district decided to seek a renewal levy on May 5 "for a continuing period of time" rather than go back on the ballot every five years, as has been done since 1989. If voters give their approval, the result will be a steady annual income that can be used for permanent improvement projects and work on district facilities.

It's worth noting that state law bars any of the money from this no-new-millage levy from being used for operating expenses, such as salaries.

The levy, if approved, is expected to generate approximately $9.2-million per year or about $46-million over the next five years. But because it will provide a permanent and dependable revenue stream, the district will be able to borrow against future collections to pay for $65.7-million worth of repairs and renovations over those five years. The projects address basic needs: paving and walkway repairs at every district building, replacing instructional materials in every school, exterior building repairs at every district building, among other things.

Given the unwelcome effects of a sluggish economy, the timing of this levy -- or any tax issue -- isn't stellar. But in order to maintain its own property values and provide a safe place for students and employees, the Westerville school district must do what any responsible property owner must do: Invest periodically in repairs, replacements and renovations.

This capital improvements levy will provide the money for such projects and will do so in a way that won't increase taxes beyond their current rate.

ThisWeek supports the Westerville school district's 3.59-mill capital improvements levy on the May 5 ballot and encourages voters to approve it.