The Delaware Area Career Center will have a levy on the ballot this fall, but not in Delaware County.
Residents served by the center in Franklin, Marion, Morrow and Union counties will vote on a renewal levy that Delaware County voters overwhelmingly approved in 2015. The issue was not on the ballot that year in the surrounding counties because of an error by the Delaware County Board of Elections, which led to the invalidation of the 10-year, 1.7-mill levy.
Legislation sponsored by state Reps. Andrew Brenner (R-Powell) and Rick Carfagna (R-Genoa Township) and passed earlier this year allowed the center to take the unprecedented action of returning to those counties to complete the levy vote. The number of people who will be eligible to vote on the issue in the neighboring counties is not large enough to reverse the result of the 2015 vote in Delaware County, meaning the levy cannot be rejected Nov. 7.
Because of the unprecedented nature of the move, center officials simultaneously planned a new levy request in all five counties -- including Delaware County -- if the renewal levy was kept off ballots.
DACC Superintendent Mary Beth Freeman said that backup plan was scrapped in late August when it became evident the four-county request would move forward.
Freeman said the legislative fix respects the rights of residents in adjacent counties and gives the center a path to regaining the funding it needs.
"I think that this solution through legislation is a win-win," she said.
A lack of funding led the center this summer to pause work on a $45 million project to expand and renovate its southern campus off U.S. Route 23 in Liberty Township.
Even though the levy request theoretically cannot fail, Freeman said, workers will not return to the site until after the vote.
"We will not start back on construction until the results are certified," she said.
Freeman said she hopes to have all students moved out of the center's north campus in Brown Township and into the expanded south campus by August 2019.
Delaware County has agreed to buy the 64-acre north campus for $1.77 million with plans to convert it into offices. The county will not take possession of the property until all students have moved out of the building off state Route 521.
Julie Wagner Feasel, who sits on the center and Olentangy Local School District's boards, said Brenner and Carfagna deserve "kudos" for working on a solution. She said Freeman also deserves special recognition.
"(Freeman's response) has been over and above what is expected," Feasel said. "I know she has lost sleep over it."
Freeman said residents from throughout the center's boundaries pulled together to help push for a solution.
"The response from the community has been overwhelming and humbling," she said.
Feasel said she is hopeful a legislative fix will prevent similar board of elections' mistakes from invalidating levies for other districts and municipalities in the future.
"I think something needs to be done," she said. "Some checks and balances need to be put in place so it doesn't happen again."