Westerville News & Public Opinion

State of the community

Westerville’s leaders focus on progress

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Leaders from the city of Westerville, Westerville City Schools, the Westerville Area Chamber of Commerce and Otterbein University all focused on looking forward during the annual State of the Community event on Feb. 28.

City manager Dave Collinsworth said Westerville is focused on “progress and revitalization.”

The city is moving forward to spur economic growth through the inception of the WeConnect community data center, which opened last week, Collinsworth said.

The city has also reconstructed its website and is looking at creating a mobile app that will provide city information, maps and services, he said.

At the same time, Collinsworth said, the city is pouring resources into improving older areas, such as the South State Street corridor and the historic Uptown district.

“Innovation and continued growth are key to the city’s economic development priorities,” he said. “While we grow, there is always an eye on revitalization needed in our community É We view it as a key responsibility to take the steps necessary to ensure that all areas of our community are well maintained and, when necessary, restored to our standards of excellence.”

Representatives of the Westerville City School District said the district is facing an uncertain future, as residents were headed to the polls March 6 to cast ballots on Issue 10, the district’s request for a five-year, 6.71-mill emergency levy.

In January, the board of education voted to cut $18.5 million from the 2012-2013 budget, eliminating 221 positions.

“This 12-percent reduction to our workforce also means that many of the programs, services and opportunities that have been available to our students must be reduced or eliminated,” Superintendent Dan Good said. “Simply put, our district is one step closer to providing only a state-minimum education to its students.”

Regardless of the outcome of the levy, school board president Kevin Hoffman said, the district faces drastic changes due to a multimillion dollar budget deficit.

“Even if the March emergency levy passes, our initial estimates are that we must retain about $10 million in budget reductions,” Hoffman said. “Many other unknown factors can impact this exact number, but needless to say, our school district will look quite different than it has in recent years.”

The chamber of commerce continues to support its 650 member businesses through networking events, member services, economic-development initiatives and government relations, said chairman of the board Scott Grotelueschen.

The chamber offers 34 networking events each year and continues to save its members money on materials, health insurance and workers’ compensation, Grotelueschen said.

The chamber is entering its second year of strategic planning, chamber president Janet Tressler-Davis said. The organization is surveying its members and plans to launch a mobile application for smartphones later this year, she said.

Otterbein has worked to “reimagine programs and priorities to sharpen their relevance for a 21st-century Otterbein, university president Kathy Krendl said.

“From a reinvigorated curriculum to a redesigned academic calendar, Otterbein is gaining momentum,” Krendl said. “The focus of our work has been to reimagine how to best educate, inspire and prepare students to become problem solvers and change agents.”

The university plans to add a Master of Allied Health program, with tracks in athletic training, health and wellness, and allied health care administration, Krendl said. The university also plans to offer a Master of Educational Mathematics program, with courses planned to start this fall.

“The landscape of higher education is changing, and Otterbein is positioning itself to continue our rich tradition of innovation, inclusiveness and progressive thinking,” Krendl said.

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