After earning approval for a new levy at the ballot box last fall, Delaware City School District officials in 2018 will shift their focus to procuring more funding from the state of Ohio.
District voters in November overwhelmingly voted to approve an 8.35-mill emergency levy to prevent what Superintendent Paul Craft referred to as "drastic cuts" to programs and staffing.
Craft said he was "absolutely surprised" the levy passed so easily.
The superintendent said he believes the result shows residents do not want to see cuts to education because they are happy with the state of the schools and the city they call home.
"There may not be a better place to live in central Ohio right now," he said.
While the district has a record of support from voters, Craft said officials cannot count on that enthusiasm to carry through to a future levy campaign. He said one way the district can delay future levy requests is to receive more funding from Ohio.
The state caps the amount of financial support it gives to wealthy, growing districts. The Delaware City School District is set to lose out on about $7.8 million in funding in fiscal year 2018 because of the policy.
Craft said he meets almost every day with local and state officials in an attempt to help create "a coalition" to push legislators for relief from the caps.
"I wouldn't say we're getting pushback from anybody," he said. "On the other hand, I think we have a lot of work to do ... to get that story told and to find a broad base of legislators that understand (how many) school districts in their (legislative) districts are being impacted."
Craft said Delaware has natural allies in districts such as Dublin, New Albany and Olentangy, which lose out on even more funding annually because of the caps.
Olentangy Superintendent Mark Raiff said getting relief from the caps also will play a major role in his plans for 2018.
"Our No. 1 challenge will continue to be inadequate funding from the state," he said. "All of our residents, all of our taxpayers have to be engaged in that."
Craft said funding decisions made at the state level are forcing officials in growing districts to seek levies more frequently from voters.
"What they have been doing is not working for districts where we are," he said.
Craft said a lack of ongoing building projects in 2018 should allow district officials to focus more on funding.
The district enters the new year with no major construction projects planned for the first time in several years. Voters in 2013 passed a $50 million bond issue that led to expansion and renovation projects at buildings throughout the district.
Workers wrapped up their projects in the district midway through 2017. Craft said district officials are proud of completing the projects with "a minimal amount of disruption" for staff and students.
Work completed at Hayes High School included the construction of a new math and science wing and a video-production lab. Craft said students have welcomed the addition of new, specialized classrooms.
"I think the kids see it as the community having invested in (their education)," he said.
Craft said expanding district buildings should give teachers the flexibility to pursue more project-based learning and problem-solving exercises in the roomier facilities. He said it also should delay new constriction projects and talk of redistricting for years to come.