With the Westerville City Schools' most recent levy request passed, pro-levy group Our Community, Our Schools has found a new mission: Lobby the state for changes that would require districts to go to the ballot less often.

With the Westerville City Schools' most recent levy request passed, pro-levy group Our Community, Our Schools has found a new mission: Lobby the state for changes that would require districts to go to the ballot less often.

"Immediately after Election Day, we sat down to write a thank-you letter to the community," Our Community, Our Schools co-chairman Rick Bannister said. "We also realized that our community was put through quite an ordeal and more work needed to be done, so we drafted two letters. We drafted the letter to the community, and we drafted a letter to the governor."

The letter included a call to action to address school funding and an invitation to sit down with members of the community to discuss school funding. The letter received more than 1,000 signatures of support and earned community representatives a meeting with representatives of Gov. John Kasich, state Rep. Anne Gonzales (R-Westerville) and state Sen. Kevin Bacon (R-Minerva Park).

Bannister said the community representatives had asked state leaders to address four areas that would provide communities "the relief (we) need and the stability we need."

Bannister said community representatives requested that the state reform or repeal House Bill 920 to allow districts to see growth in revenue with inflation to help alleviate the need for levy requests, that the Homestead Exemption be expanded further to allow more tax relief to senior citizens, that the state hold charter schools to the same standards as public schools and that the state provide relief from unfunded or underfunded mandates.

The governor's office seemed particularly interested in mandates, Bannister said. The district was asked to follow up with the governor's office to provide specific examples of the mandates and how they affect Westerville schools.

"We've got some homework to do, and we're going to work with the district in responding to the governor's office in providing them with that data," Bannister said.

He said he doesn't expect any real action until after the November election but that Our Community, Our Schools and other local leaders plan to continue their lobbying efforts.

"I think we're realistic about that, but that doesn't mean we can't continue to garner support and work toward some sort of plan to address Ohio school district funding after the fall election," he said.

Bannister said Our Community, Our Schools has planned a reorganizational meeting, which will focus on finding new leaders for future levy campaigns and on establishing a lobbying wing.

Bannister said he sees the need for school-funding reform as something the community could unite to work toward.

"What I really would like to do is find a lasting solution so we don't have these divisive discussions. I want us all to be working together," Bannister said. "I think that reform is going to happen here only if the citizens of Ohio demand it."

More information on Our Community, Our Schools and its efforts is available online at www.ourcommunityourschools.org.