Big Walnut Local School District leaders say the outlet mall planned off Interstate 71 at the Sunbury exit will not solve the district's need for additional revenue.

Big Walnut Local School District leaders say the outlet mall planned off Interstate 71 at the Sunbury exit will not solve the district's need for additional revenue.

Current plans call for a Simon-Tanger outlet mall to open in 2017 off U.S. Route 36/state Route 37 near I-71. Construction has not yet begun.

Big Walnut Superintendent Steve Mazzi said there are a lot of misconceptions regarding what the district will receive from revenue generated by the outlet mall.

"I've heard people say that this mall will be the savior of the district," he said. "People have said they don't understand why we need a levy, because this mall will give us everything we need. I wish that were true, but it's just not."

Following three failed attempts to pass a levy, Big Walnut was successful in 2010, passing a five-year, 7.5-mill emergency operating levy. That levy expires this year.

The district will ask voters May 5 to approve a renewal of the existing levy at 6.9 mills. Under the current emergency levy, homeowners pay about $230 annually per $100,000 in home value. The district estimates the new levy would cost homeowners about $212 annually per $100,000 in valuation.

Big Walnut also receives money from an income tax, but Mazzi said it's a "bedroom tax." The district would not receive additional income tax from employees of the outlet mall unless they live in the school district, he said.

Putting the mall in a tax-increment financing district also will limit taxes paid to the district for 10 years.

"I want people to think about where their children are in school," Mazzi said. "This is 10 years from now. If your child is in seventh grade now, for example, they will never see the benefits of that revenue."

Mazzi said the district is running on a $30 million annual budget, but as growth continues over the next decade, it could increase to $40 million or $50 million by 2027.

"Where are you going to be in 10 years? We will most likely have a few new schools in the district," he said. "Even if we were to receive $1 million a year from the mall in 2027, it's still not enough to offset the costs in running this district."

Mazzi said through arduous negotiations with the developers, the district was able to secure $100,000 a year in tax money from 2017-27.

"The developers wanted to appear like they were community-friendly, so they settled on giving us at least something while they were under the 10/75 TIF law," he said.

Mazzi said that $100,000 is a small amount considering how much it costs to run the district.

"We spent $100,000 just in blacktop upgrades, let alone all the other maintenance we have to do," he said. "Think about all the things you have to do as a homeowner and then times that by 10. That's how much it costs to maintain these buildings."

Mazzi said a lot of people are under the impression that the Olentangy Local School District would receive a lot of money from Polaris Fashion Place when it opened, but it didn't turn out to be a viable financial solution.

"The needs of the district greatly outweigh what these developments can provide," Mazzi said. "We want people to put this into perspective.

"Even if we know we'll receive some money, we're going to be smart and strategic and base what we spend on money we know we're going to receive. We can't make decisions based on something that is so unsure."