Westerville resident Greg Plutchak said he and his neighbor had their "Vote No on Issue 10" signs stolen from their front yards recently.

Westerville resident Greg Plutchak said he and his neighbor had their "Vote No on Issue 10" signs stolen from their front yards recently.

The same night, he said, someone bent a long metal wire and placed it in the undercarriage of the car parked in his driveway, and "Vote No" signs were stolen from a shopping center five miles away from his home.

"If you wonder why there is bitterness and divisiveness in the community, this is a good example of why," Plutchak told the Westerville Board of Education at its Feb. 27 meeting.

As Election Day draws near, supporters and opponents of Issue 10, the Westerville City Schools' request for a five-year, 6.71-mill levy, each accused the other side of questionable tactics.

Levy opponents said some local business owners with "I (heart) Westerville Schools" signs in the windows were not told the signs were being distributed by the pro-levy campaign. Businesses with anti-levy signs have been harassed and threatened, levy opponents said.

Signs from pro-levy Our Community, Our Schools also have been stolen, campaign co-chairman Rick Bannister said, and some businesses with the pro-levy signs reported being harassed.

Levy opponents also have created fake Facebook accounts to post disparaging comments on the group's Facebook page, Bannister said.

"They're calling businesses and threatening them. They're creating fictitious characters on Facebook to bombard our page. They copied our trademark logo they've harassed our PTAs," Bannister said. "Where does it end?"

After resident Pete Wilms offered a reward for tips leading to the arrest of those stealing campaign signs - prompted by the theft and burning of an estimated 50 signs Feb. 16 - the anti-levy campaign was accused of turning attention away from the levy debate.

"It's one more thing that distracts people from the real issue," said Our Community, Our Schools spokesman Mark Hopkins. "Just talking about the issue isn't enough."

Bannister said he feels as though Our Community, Our Schools is under attack.

"It's time that people really look at what's going on here. When you don't (like) the message, you attack the messenger, and we've been under attack," he said. "We're concerned about the schools. We're concerned about the kids. We're concerned about the businesses and the property values."

Both campaigns denied any wrongdoing on the part of their volunteers and said they have encouraged people to stay positive while campaigning.

"I've implored people to stay positive because I think that's the right tone, and I think we should set that example for our children," Bannister said. "I think the campaign represents that."

Taxpayers for Westerville Schools representative Jim Burgess said Wilms' offer of a reward should not be taken as an attack on the opposition.

"I don't think anyone has attacked OCOS at all. We're attacking the criminals in our city," Burgess said. "A crime is a crime. We fully believe in our message. We fully believe that spending needs to come under control. We'd fully love to focus on the message, as well, but when our property is being stolen en masse, not a little but a lot, we have to (respond)."

Despite tensions, the campaigns are reminding residents that Westerville is a strong community that should be damaged by the negativity of a heated election.

"I don't truly believe this is the true Westerville," Our Community, Our Schools co-chairwoman Jennifer Aultman told the school board Feb. 27. "We, as a community, teach children by example how to be in the world."

Despite differences, residents have to live together with respect, Wilms said.

"Come March 7, we all will be living here, hopefully, as friends and neighbors," he said.