The Win-Win agreement with Columbus is important to Westerville, but its dissolution wouldn't cause any changes to district boundaries, Westerville City Schools officials assured parents at a special board meeting April 21.

The Win-Win agreement with Columbus is important to Westerville, but its dissolution wouldn't cause any changes to district boundaries, Westerville City Schools officials assured parents at a special board meeting April 21.

The 24-year-old pact is up for renewal this year. The nine districts involved, including Westerville, have until May 31 to vote to pull out of the agreement, or it automatically renews for another six years.

The legal agreement, forged in 1986, said areas that were already developed would remain in suburban districts. In exchange, Columbus schools would share some tax revenue from those areas and have the rights to any new areas annexed to the city of Columbus.

Last week's meeting in Westerville, planned specifically to talk about the Win-Win agreement, earned added attention when Columbus City Schools board members agreed on April 20 to examine the numbers to see whether the $6.3-million Columbus schools collect from Win-Win is still a good financial deal for that district.

But the Columbus school board can't just end the 1986 agreement and take over areas that are in suburban school districts; some suburban parents have already indicated they would fight any such attempt. In addition, the state Board of Education has the final say on changes to school district boundaries.

Westerville board members were adamant that regardless of what happens with the agreement, they consider students who live in the Win-Win area to be full-fledged Westerville students.

"I just want to reiterate, even if the Win-Win agreement ends, (those students) are ours and have always been ours," board member Cindy Crowe said. "That needs to be clear. We still have our kids ... they don't automatically go anywhere."

Superintendent Dan Good agreed.

"Those students have always been our students, and we love our students," Good said.

As part of the April 21 Westerville meeting, Jeff Rich, an attorney with Rich & Gillis Law Group, explained that school districts in Ohio were originally developed along township boundaries. Single townships, or sometimes multiple townships, would form districts to educate the children who lived there.

"As the municipalities grew ... many (school districts) became coterminous with city lines," Rich said.

When cities annexed property, the local school district automatically expanded along with the city, until 1955, when the state legislature said no further changes would be made to school district boundaries without the consent of the State Board of Education.

After that, Rich said, Columbus continued to expand rapidly, annexing land from the surrounding townships, but Columbus City Schools rarely requested an expansion of its boundaries.

But in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Columbus City Schools began talking about absorbing some parts of the city that are in suburban districts, so the state legislature put a moratorium on annexations and told Columbus and the suburban districts to work out what eventually became the Win-Win agreement.

Columbus agreed it wouldn't seek to absorb areas within the city of Columbus that were already within suburban districts, and the 10 suburban districts originally included in Win-Win agreed not to abandon those students. Reynoldsburg pulled out of Win-Win in 1998 but the Columbus district has never sought that land.

According to the Win-Win agreement, unincorporated areas annexed into the city of Columbus automatically became part of the Columbus City Schools district. In addition, the suburban districts agreed to pay 1 percent of any improved value on commercial property to Columbus City Schools, without any adjustments for inflation.

When the Win-Win agreement was renewed in 1992, it was amended to allow for inflation up to a certain amount, Rich said. In 2009, Westerville paid Columbus about $1.05-million out of the $24.7-million it collects in taxes from its Win-Win area.