Olentangy residents this year either will approve the construction of a fourth high school or send district officials back to the drawing board.

Olentangy residents this year either will approve the construction of a fourth high school or send district officials back to the drawing board.

The district's school board voted 4-1 in November to put a 6.9-mill levy on the March 15 ballot, almost certainly determining the top story in the district for 2016.

The levy features three components: a 5.9-mill operating levy; a 1-mill permanent-improvement levy; and a no-new-millage, $79.6 million bond issue. Residents will cast one vote for or against the three-component package.

The vast majority of the bond funding would be used to build a high school on Berlin Station Road in Berlin Township to ease crowding at the district's three existing high schools. If voters approve the levy, construction could begin in the summer.

Although he said he's heard a lot of support for the fourth high school, Raiff said it's important for residents to remember that's just one aspect of the ballot issue.

"We continue to do our best to educate the public about the need," he said. "The levy has something in it for every person in the district."

The permanent-improvement levy would be the district's first levy that could be used solely to fund asphalt, roofing and other equipment or property with an estimated usefulness of five or more years.

"The permanent-improvement part of the levy allows us to maintain the investment the community has made in its schools," Raiff said.

School board member Julie Wagner Feasel said the 5.9-mill operating levy is the smallest millage increase the district has requested since 1992. She said she thinks residents who research the district's funding needs will have a positive view of the levy request.

"We have a good story to tell," she said. "That story is continued excellence."

Raiff said the district's administration has not prepared a list of potential cuts if the levy fails because the community has expressed dissatisfaction with that approach in the past. He said residents do need to realize nonessential programs face potential cutbacks if the levy fails.

"Everything that's not required will become part of the discussion," he said.

If the levy is approved, the construction of the fourth high school eventually will lead to redistricting. Olentangy residents already will see the effects of redistricting on a smaller scale in 2016.

Raiff on Dec. 9 announced a redistricting plan for 2016-17 affecting 572 elementary school and middle school students as part of an effort to reduce crowding. Those students are expected to stay put if boundaries change again ahead of the fourth high school's opening.

Feasel said the district will have resources in place next school year to help students adjust to the changes.

"People don't want to move and we understand that," she said.

The last school board meeting in 2015 marked the end of Adam White's controversial tenure on the board.

White clashed frequently with his fellow board members on financial and personnel decisions and is suing four of his former colleagues over alleged violations of open-meetings law.

District voters selected Mindy Patrick to take White's place on the board in November after he declined to run for re-election.

Raiff said he's excited to work more closely with Patrick, who has a history of volunteering within the district.

"I know she's a passionate supporter of our schools, and I'm very confident she's going to come in here and learn to be a collaborative board member," he said.

Board President Kevin O'Brien, who won a new term in November, said he thinks Patrick will bring a "fresh voice" to meetings.

"It's going to be a much more positive place to be," he said.