After three decades under the Win-Win agreement with Columbus City Schools, Hilliard City Schools is ready to opt out of the agreement.

After three decades under the Win-Win agreement with Columbus City Schools, Hilliard City Schools is ready to opt out of the agreement.

In doing so, the boundaries of the district will be frozen, providing stability and saving $3.45 million during the time period the payments to Columbus City Schools are phased out through 2021, district officials said.

"Win-Win has served its time ... but its time has passed," Superintendent John Marschhausen told board members Aug. 22 in making a recommendation to approve an amendment allowing the district to exit the agreement.

Board members approved the resolution amending the Win-Win agreement, which has been in place since 1986 between Columbus City Schools and nine other suburban districts, many of which also recently renegotiated their deal.

Win-Win calls for suburban districts to pay Columbus City Schools 1 percent of new commercial- and industrial property-tax growth in areas of Columbus they served before 1986. Payments are capped at $1.15 million.

The tax agreement was struck to halt a potential turf war. Columbus had been annexing unincorporated areas for a few decades, but suburban school districts still served those territories. Protests sprung up in the suburbs against the possibility that Columbus schools could take them in. The General Assembly placed a six-year moratorium on land transfers before the 1986 negotiations and deal.

In exchange for keeping territory annexed to Columbus before 1986, the suburban districts -- Canal Winchester, Groveport Madison, Hamilton Local, New Albany-Plain Local, Westerville, Dublin, Hilliard and South-Western -- pay Columbus City Schools the portion of the tax growth from new commercial and industrial properties on that land. Gahanna-Jefferson is part of the deal but currently pays nothing. Columbus took in $5.5 million in 2015 from Win-Win.

Any land annexed by Columbus after 1986 goes directly to Columbus schools, and the districts have renewed the pact every six years until this year.

The Columbus school board on Aug. 16 approved identical amendments with the Hilliard, South-Western and Westerville school districts.

The Dublin City School District also took steps to extract itself from Win-Win but negotiated separately with Columbus in a deal that involved the transfer of land, an act that Marschhausen said was never a consideration in Hilliard's negotiations.

The amended agreement calls for Hilliard to make a full payment of $1.15 million in May 2017.

The payment due in May 2018 is 80 percent of the full amount; in May 2019, 60 percent of the full amount; in May 2020, 40 percent of the full amount; in May 2021, 20 percent of the fill amount; and no payment shall be due after unless otherwise negotiated by the parties, according to the agreement.

Marschhausen said the Win-Win amendment provides a possible benefit of extending the coverage of tax levies.

The district is seeking a 4.5-mill permanent operating levy and $50 million bond issue in November. The operating levy is the first the district has sought since 2011.

"(This amendment) can extend our levy if we play our cards right," Marschhausen said.

Savings in health-care expenses allowed the district to extend the current operating levy and the $3.45 million from the decreasing Win-Win payments could allow the district to stretch future levy cycles, he told board members.

"Win-Win has served us well ... but if we go another six years (without an amendment) we would be in a worse place. This is an opportunity to have a voice in the change," board member Andy Teater said.

As for the $3.5 million, "we can't ignore those savings," Teater said.

Board President Heather Keck agreed the savings resulting from the Win-Win amendment are tangible and will likely allow the district to extend its tax levies.

Board member Paul Lambert said while he was concerned about the scope of residential development without Win-Win, the district could not reasonably reject the amendment.

"If we become the only one left (in Win-Win), we will have no power. For me, the balance is tipped for supporting it," he said.

Lambert also mentioned the levy request's effect.

"We have a levy on the ballot and can't leave $3.5 million on the table while asking for a levy," he said.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo