The Franklin County Board of Elections must mail absentee ballots Saturday, Sept. 22, though uncertainty remained about whether a Westerville school tax repeal will be on the ballot.

The Franklin County Board of Elections must mail absentee ballots Saturday, Sept. 22, though uncertainty remained about whether a Westerville school tax repeal will be on the ballot.

The citizens group Taxpayers for Westerville Schools was certified by the Franklin County Board of Elections to place the repeal of 6.71 mills of an 11.4-mill levy passed in 2009 Aug. 20.

But the Board of Elections repealed that certification Sept. 4, knocking the tax repeal off the ballot, after Westerville resident Gene Hollins filed a protest, saying the 2009 levy could not be repealed because it did not increase taxes.

Under Ohio law, only levies that increase taxes can be repealed.

Taxpayers for Westerville Schools, with legal representation from the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, quickly filed an appeal of that decision with the Ohio Supreme Court.

At issue in the debate is whether the 2009 levy constituted a levy increase.

The 2009 levy renewed two previous levies: a 1.6-mill levy approved by district voters in November 1972 and a 9.8-mill levy approved by voters in June 1979.

When the 2009 levy was approved, the two levies were being collected at a combined effective rate of 3.43 mills, and passage of the replacement levy restored collection to a full 11.4 mills, an effective rate increase of 7.97 mills.

Hollins, and those who have sided with him in the case, including the Westerville City Schools Board of Education, the Buckeye Association of School Administrators, the Ohio Association of School Business Officials and the Ohio School Boards Association, maintain that the 2009 levy was not an increase because the 11.4 mills were approved previously.

Taxpayers for Westerville Schools, which also was backed by the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxation, argue that the 2009 issue was a tax increases because taxes were raised from the effective 3.43 mills, increasing district residents' taxes by $244 per year per $100,000 in property valuation.

The Ohio Supreme Court as of Tuesday evening's press deadline for the News & Public Opinion had not ruled on the appeal, nor given any indication of when a ruling could come.

And the deadline was ticking for the elections board to get absentee ballots printed and in the mail Saturday.

"It's anyone's guess when they'll rule," said Franklin County Board of Elections spokesman Ben Piscitelli. "As it stands, those ballots will be going out Saturday (Sept. 22) ... without that repeal issue on that ballot. If something were to change, if the court were to reverse that, we would have to re-mail ballots."

Among military and civilians from Franklin County living abroad, 3,670 are eligible to vote on Westerville tax issue, Piscitelli said, and 47 so far have requested absentee ballots by mail.