Barring a change in heart from the Worthington school board, district voters should expect to see two school-funding issues on their November ballots.
Although the board has yet to make an official determination, district leaders said their conversations have narrowed to determining the details of a separate bond issue and operating levy that they plan to put on the Nov. 6 ballot.
District officials previously said they were all but certain they would seek a bond issue, but the timing of a levy request was undecided.
“We have, in concept, agreed that we will have a bond issue and operating levy on the ballot in November of 2018,” district treasurer Jeff McCuen said. “We have not decided the exact size or composition of either, though I think we’re close. So we’ll have ongoing conversations about that through April.”
The filing deadline for the Nov. 6 general-election ballot is Aug. 8, according to the Franklin County Board of Elections website.
It is unclear when district officials expect to decide the terms or millages of the ballot issues.
District leaders have been grappling with the decision on funding options since last year, when a facilities-planning task force presented findings that conveyed a sense of urgency and a recommendation to build new buildings.
School board President Julie Keegan said in an email that having both issues on the 2018 ballot always seemed likely but was reaffirmed by the task force’s recommendations.
“This would have been the case even just to repair and replace aging facilities, but growth in student population made the need even more urgent,” she said.
Enrollment is 10,201 this school year, according to the district, and it has increased by 1,000 students over the past five years. District officials estimate enrollment will increase by 700 students over the next five years.
One of the decisions McCuen and the board had to determine was whether to make the operating levy incremental, which would increase millage and collect more as the years progressed, but also would mean separating the funding requests on the ballot.
Although McCuen and Keegan acknowledged that asking residents to approve two separate issues would be a bit trickier than one combined issue, McCuen said the benefits of the incremental levy make the separation worthwhile.
“It makes sense to start at a lesser amount and let the taxes raise as students come in, and hopefully it becomes more affordable for us,” he said.
Keegan said the incremental levy is the best option given the circumstances.
“Because we believe strongly that an incremental levy is much more fair to our taxpayers, we are forced to place two separate levies on the ballot this fall,” she said.
McCuen and Keegan expect the board to make a final decision on the issues by the end of April or early May, and McCuen said he doesn’t expect too much in the way of disagreement.
“I think we’re very, very close,” he said.
Meanwhile, Keegan’s focus is shifting toward reaching out to Worthington residents in the lead-up to the vote.
“Although there may be a small amount of discussion remaining regarding the precise amount of the bond levy, our concerns are mostly about the large and important job of communicating with our residents to educate them on the need for the levies and the district's plans,” she said.