Political-action committees have formed to support and oppose Upper Arlington schools' request for a combined 8.92-mill levy and bond issue on the Nov. 7 ballot.
Issue 43 includes a 3.75-mill operating levy that would generate approximately $6.3 million in additional annual revenue for daily expenses, such as teacher salaries, instructional and pupil support, technology and transportation.
It also includes a 5.17-mill bond issue designed to bring in approximately $230 million over 38 years, according to district officials, to be used to reconstruct Upper Arlington High School and its athletics facilities and pay for renovations to each of the district's five elementary schools.
As the calendar moves toward the Oct. 11 start of absentee and early in-person voting, a group calling itself Citizens for UA Schools is preparing to campaign for passage of the levy and bond.
Conversely, a group dubbed Citizens Advocating Reasonable Taxation has come out opposed to Issue 43.
"It's too much money to spend in the short construction phase with payments stretched out an excessive 38 years," CART spokeswoman Mindy Lambert said.
Jennifer Heck, one of three chairpersons for Citizens for UA Schools, said Sept. 20 her group was preparing to debut yard signs in support of Issue 43. She said hundreds of school officials and residents have worked for two years to plan for the best way to address the district's needs regarding buildings that are, on average, more than 63 years old.
"The single-biggest financial threat to our schools right now is the cost to maintain our aging school buildings," Heck said. "Now it is up to us as a community to help inform our friends and neighbors on how important this combined ballot issue is for the future of our schools and community."
Heck said Citizens for UA Schools has been organizing up to 12 informational meetings in the community each week to help spread its message. At some, district officials, including Superintendent Paul Imhoff, have been on hand to answer questions about building needs and how the bond money would be spent.
The group points to the district's website, uaschools.org, as a source of Issue 43 information. In addition, Citizens for UA Schools has a website, foruaschools.org, and accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
"There is no zero-cost option," Heck said. "In fact, assessments of the buildings determined that it would cost $188 million over 15 years just to maintain and repair the district's schools. After more than two years of planning, our community has developed a plan to ensure facilities funds are spent wisely and in a way that will support Upper Arlington students today and for generations to come."
If passed, Issue 43 would increase Upper Arlington property taxes by 14 percent, based on current tax rates. It would result in an increase of $312 per $100,000 of home valuation annually, as determined by the Franklin County Auditor's Office.
The owner of a $400,000 home – the average price of a home in the city – would pay an additional $1,249 in property taxes each year, according to the district.
The increased taxes are one reason CART opposes Issue 43, but the group outlined several issues it has with the combined levy and bond in a five-page "position paper" and on its website, uacart.com.
The group calls the levy and bond package an "overly ambitious plan to replace and tear down half of UA's schools, while continuing to attempt to provide a quality educational experience to students."
CART notes a $44.4 million bond issue Upper Arlington voters passed in November 1995 to pay for repairs, renovate buildings and install wiring necessary for computers won't be paid off for another five years.
The group also contends the district has not been a good steward of taxpayer dollars. Members point to salaries of teachers and administrators found on the Ohio Treasurer's website and say officials "have paid themselves first."
"Passage of Issue 43 will culminate in an enormous increase in Upper Arlington property taxes paid by residents to the school district," CART's position paper states. "If Issue 43 passes, UA taxpayers will be tearing down three school buildings while they still owe money on additions built on those buildings for over five years.
"And if the last bond issue for 27 years didn't last, how can we possibly expect a 38-year bond issue to last? In all likelihood, UA taxpayers will be asked to pay even more before the expiration of 38 years."
In addition to rebuilding UAHS, district officials have said Issue 43 will allow them to renovate Barrington and Tremont elementary schools, rebuild Wickliffe and Windermere elementary schools and rebuild all but the 1997 and 2009 additions at Greensview Elementary.
Plans also call for dealing with drainage issues and installing a turf field and baseball/softball diamonds on district-owned land behind Tremont Elementary School adjacent to Northam Park that is used by high school teams for practice and competition.
All of that "first phase" work included in the district's facilities master plan would be supplemented by at least $5 million in private donations that are expected to be raised to offset the cost of the work.
Should Issue 43 pass and the facilities plan proceed, district officials have said they would delay asking for an estimated $53.2 million in funding for repairs to two middle schools and Burbank Early Childhood School for 10 years.