The Olentangy school board, which voted 3-2 on Dec. 22 to seek a 7.9-mill operating levy in May, could have to request a smaller levy after finding out that the vote earlier this month was invalid.

The Olentangy school board, which voted 3-2 on Dec. 22 to seek a 7.9-mill operating levy in May, could have to request a smaller levy after finding out that the vote earlier this month was invalid.

State law requires that operating levies, with the exception of emergency levies, require a minimum two-thirds vote by a board. For Olentangy, that means at least a 4-1 vote is needed.

Unless either board member Scott Galloway or Kevin O'Brien or both, who voted against the 7.9-mill levy, change their minds the board will have to compromise on a lower millage amount. Both O'Brien and Galloway support a 6.9-mill levy.

Galloway said before a special board meeting on Dec. 28 that he has not reassessed his position on a millage amount.

"We'll have more discussion at our Jan. 12 meeting," Galloway said.

O'Brien was out-of-state and did not attend the Dec. 28 meeting.

The difference for the owner of $100,000 home between a 6.9-mill levy and a 7.9-mill levy is about $30 a year on their tax bill. The 6.9-mill levy would cost $211.31 a year while the 7.9-mill levy would cost $241.94. The district estimates that 6.9 mills would raise about $22 million a year versus $24 million for 7.9 mills.

Neither board president Julie Wagner-Feasel nor superintendent Wade Lucas or treasurer Becky Jenkins was aware that a super majority vote was needed. Wagner Feasel said since she has been involved in Olentangy levy campaigns, all levies were authorized by 5-0 board votes.

She said she received an email from a Hilliard board member late last week advising her that the Olentangy vote was apparently invalid. She and other district officials investigated the matter and found out that was true.

"We'll have further discussion. We all know we need a levy," she said before the Dec. 28 meeting.

Olentangy wants to place a combination three-year operating levy and no-new-millage bond issue on the May ballot. There is no disagreement over the bond issue, which would require no new millage because the current bond debt in the district would be restructured.

However, Olentangy, which is the fastest-growing district in Ohio, is currently over its debt limit of 4 percent of its assessed valuation and is required to seek special permission from the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Department of Taxation anytime it seeks to increase its debt. That matter was part of the vote taken on Dec. 22 for the combination levy-bond issue. The proposed bond issue would raise about $24 million to build a new elementary school and pay for some other things including new textbooks and capital improvements.

At the Dec. 28 meeting, the board voted 4-0 to seek permission to increase its debt. The current valuation of the district is about $3.1 billion, Jenkins said. The district has until Jan. 3 to file the necessary paperwork with the education and taxation departments to increase its debt.

Wagner Feasel said the board is expected to vote at its Jan. 12 meeting on a new resolution of necessity to have the Delaware County auditor certify a millage amount for a levy in May. That resolution will still be for a combination operating levy and bond issue. Wagner Feasel said the district does not want to place separate issues on the ballot because one could pass and the other fail.

Further board discussions about the levy could result in a compromise amount between 6.9 and 7.9 mills, she said.

Wagner Feasel and board members Dave King and Stacy Dunbar, who all voted in favor of the 7.9 mills, have previously said any lower amount could result in cuts to academic programs. Galloway and O'Brien think program cuts can be spared even with a 6.9-mill levy. In either case, cost-saving measures - such as not replacing personnel who retire or resign - will be needed, officials have said.

If the board approves a resolution of necessity at the Jan. 12 meeting and the millage amount is then certified by the county audtitor, the board must act before the Feb. 2 filing deadline for the May election.