The Worthington school board has approved plans for two funding requests for the November general election.
On May 14, the board voted unanimously to direct district treasurer Jeff McCuen to submit the requests to the Franklin County Auditor's Office, which starts the process of placing an operating levy and a bond issue on the Nov. 6 ballot.
If certified by the auditor, the board would vote a final time to place the issues on the ballot. The filing deadline is Aug. 8, according to the Franklin County Board of Elections.
The board will ask Worthington voters to approve:
* A permanent incremental operating levy that would start at 2.9 mills and increase by 2 mills each of the next three years, topping out at 8.9 mills in 2022.
* An $89 million bond issue, which is expected to be represented as 2.56 mills.
McCuen said he believes the bond millage would decrease next year.
"I can guarantee you we're not going to be above 2.25 because we have enough debt rolling off that it will be less than that," he said.
The district would need state approval for the bond issue because it represents more than 4 percent but less than 9 percent of the district's tax valuation, he said. The Ohio Revised Code specifies that issues in that range be approved by the state, which happens on a regular basis, he said.
"It's not anything unusual for a lot of districts, especially when you're building buildings," McCuen said.
At their expected millages, the operating levy is expected to cost property owners about $101 per $100,000 of property value and the bond issue would cost about $90 per $100,000, he said. But because he expects the millage to decrease next year, the bond issue likely would be closer to $79 per $100,000, he said.
The district's calculation is that homeowners currently pay $1,428 in school-district property taxes per $100,000 of property value, McCuen said.
The two funding requests come as a response to the findings of the district's facilities-planning task force that were presented at the end of 2017 and conveyed a sense of urgency and a recommendation to build new buildings.
The need for expanded facilities is related to an increase in students over the past few years, a trend that is expected to continue.
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.
Bond-issue funds primarily would go toward construction of school buildings but also would be used for such projects as renovating the Thomas Worthington High School fieldhouse and purchasing band instruments.
Board President Julie Keegan said she thinks the district is on "very solid ground" with voters and she believes Worthington residents understand the district's need for both types of funding.
"With the operating levy, the message will be, 'We love the options and programs our community offers, and we've been off the ballot for six years when we promised three years,' " she said. "And with the bond issue, we can look at our community and say, 'Our newest building is from 1991.'
Most people would not consider that a new building, and Worthington has not (yet) put a significant amount of capital into remodeling and modernizing. So I think the message will be, 'It's time.' "
Some district leaders previously said a single ballot issue combining an operating levy and a bond would be the most effective strategy. However, according to McCuen, the state does not allow incremental levies to be involved in joint issues.
Keegan said she and others believe the incremental nature of the levy was important. She said although many believed a combined issue would be easier to sell to voters, an incremental levy was the more fiscally responsible decision and a message to voters in itself that signaled the district was not trying to spend excessively.
"I am a big proponent of the incremental levy, so I was personally very happy to see that this board's discussion led to that," she said. "I hope the community recognizes that the board wanted to be as fiscally responsible as possible.
"I know this is right thing for the community fiscally, but it will take a lot to educate voters."