Delaware- and Sunbury-area voters will have lots of decisions to make in the fall, with several ballot issues to consider and plenty of candidates seeking local office.
Big Walnut schools
The Big Walnut Local School District will return to the ballot with a revised funding request 12 months after voters shot down the district’s last ballot issue.
The district will ask voters to approve a 6.6-mill bond issue and a 1.25-mill permanent-improvements levy, combined on the Nov. 7 ballot.
The bond issue would raise an estimated $108 million and would be paid back over 37 years. The money would be used to build a new high school and an additional elementary school, as well as to add security upgrades to existing buildings.
Last November, residents said “no” to a $134 million, 8.3-mill bond issue by a vote of 6,204 to 5,287, or 54 percent to 46 percent. That bond issue would have been repaid over 37 years, costing homeowners an estimated $290 annually per $100,000 of their property’s market value.
According to Big Walnut officials, the new ballot issue will cost residents an increasing amount as the full millage begins to be collected. The district expects to collect just 1.56 mills in 2018, costing homeowners about $55 per $100,000 in property value.
That number rises each year, from $99 in 2019 to $226 in 2020, ultimately arriving at around $275 when the full millage begins to be collected, leaders said.
Superintendent Angie Pollock said the combined issue was a strategic change.
She said the new bond issue is smaller and mainly consists of funds that will be used to build entirely new schools, while the funds from the permanent-improvement levy will serve as an “ongoing revenue stream” for upkeep, citing concerns parents had last year.
“Last time, we had included money into the actual bond issue to take care of our aging buildings,” she said. “Based on feedback we got, we wanted to scale that back a little bit ... to make it a lower amount.”
After the loss in November, Pollock said she felt the district could have done more to educate residents on what they were voting for and why it was necessary. She said the district was even “battling people thinking we’re getting rich off of the (Tanger Outlet) mall.”
But she said she thinks the combined issue is actually less confusing and responds to what residents wanted last year.
“It’s never easy to explain bonds and levies, but we feel like this one breaks it out a little more so people can see that the bond is primarily those new buildings and then the PI is taking care of our existing facilities,” she said. “I’m actually hoping it will simplify it a little, as much as bonds and levies can ever be simplified.”
District leadership decided in the spring to forgo rushing into a special election in August, instead waiting for the Nov. 7 ballot and having a more-detailed plan.
But with schools reaching their capacity and buildings in need of repairs, the combined issue in November will be crucial to the district – and Pollock said she’s confident residents will respond this year.
“We have really tried ... to share the information and answer questions that continue to come up,” she said. “I’m hopeful that we’ve been able to educate people more. … I feel good about the fact that we tried to take time and do research and not just rush back to the ballot. I’m hopeful that community recognizes that and understands the need.”
Village of Galena
The village of Galena also will be on the ballot in the fall, asking voters to approve a replacement property-tax levy.
The levy has been in place for “decades,” said village Administrator Jeanna Burrell, who added she didn’t know anyone with the village who remembered how long it had been running.
“I think it’s been at least 30 years,” she said.
The four-year, 2-mill levy is the same one currently collected. It is estimated to cost residents $200 per $100,000 in property value, and will raise $44,433 annually for the village.
Burrell said no serious talks took place over whether to raise the levy or ask for additional money. She said the other issues on the November ballot meant the village didn’t want to ask voters for too much.
“Looking at the November ballot, it’s getting a bit crowded and it made us a little nervous,” she said.
Galena has a budget of about $1.5 million, making the $44,433 from the levy seem insignificant. But Burrell said about one-third of the entire budget goes toward sewer utilities, and any other funding is crucial to the village.
“With the balance of that, we have to operate the entire village – all the streets, storm sewers, streetlights, roads, parks and everything other than sanitary sewer,” she said. “We rely a lot on grants or grant loans for all of our large infrastructure projects ... so we always need matching funds. So these (funds) help leverage bigger dollars.”
Burrell sent the information about the levy to residents last month in the village’s newsletter. She said she has yet to hear negative feedback, which makes her think residents are understanding of the levy.
“I haven’t heard from anybody about, ‘Why are you asking for this levy?’ or anything,” she said. “So we’re not hearing a big outcry about it. The first thing you usually hear is the negative, and we haven’t heard that. So I think that’s a good sign.”
Delaware County voters have plenty of other ballot issues and races to consider ahead of the Nov. 7 general election.
The Delaware City School District will seek approval of a five-year, 8.35-mill emergency levy.
In a measure that affects the entire county, Preservation Parks will ask for approval of a 10-year, 0.6-mill renewal levy plus a 0.3-mill increase for operating expenses and planned improvements.
In addition, the Delaware Area Career Center is seeking approval for a new 10-year, 0.8-mill levy. Center officials plan to pull the issue from Delaware County ballots if a renewal-levy request left off Franklin, Marion, Morrow and Union counties’ ballots in 2015 is allowed to go forward in those areas.
Finally, Berlin Township will ask for an additional five-year, 2.95-mill levy for the township’s fire department.