Westerville City School District residents go to the polls Nov. 8, not only to vote on who will become the country's next president, but also to vote on Issue 59, a "substitute emergency operating levy" that, if approved, would replace the district's expiring tax issue.

Westerville City School District residents go to the polls Nov. 8, not only to vote on who will become the country's next president, but also to vote on Issue 59, a "substitute emergency operating levy" that, if approved, would replace the district's expiring tax issue.

Voters approved a 6.71-mill five-year emergency operating levy in March 2012, costing taxpayers an additional $205 annually per $100,000 of assessed property value. That tax issue expires Dec. 30, 2017.

The substitute tax would renew that levy, make it permanent and continue to allow the district to collect the $16.5 million per year it generates. Because it is a substitute tax instead of a renewal, it would allow the district to collect additional tax money from new construction, district Treasurer Bart Griffith said.

Taxpayers for Westerville Schools, led by resident Jim Burgess, opposes Issue 59, while the group Our Community Our Schools, led by Rick Bannister and Mollie Lynch, hopes to convince voters to approve the issue, calling it a "no new tax" issue.

Burgess led the opposition against the 2012 levy, as well.

"Issue 59 is a tax increase, plain and simple," he said.

Information on the website taxpayersforwestervilleschools. com, states homes and businesses could see specific increases in their tax bills if Issue 59 is approved.

Burgess said the tax levy takes the voted tax rate from 6.71 mills to 7.13 mills.

"The ballot clearly states, 'the sum of such tax to increase,' meaning the district would see a tax increase," he said.

Bannister said he and Lynch have worked with representatives from both the Franklin County and Delaware auditors offices to check calculations.

"Because this is a substitute levy of the one that passed in 2012, there is more valuation on the books than in 2012," he said. "If this levy is approved, what residents are paying actually goes down.

"This is a 'no new tax' issue, so the same amount of money would go to the schools each year, but because there are more homes and property on the books, it is spread out, so the tax bills would be a little lower," he said.

The Our Community Our Schools website is ocoswesterville.com.

Bannister said his group used levy calculators on the auditors' websites and "in 100 percent of the cases we tested in Delaware and Franklin County, the taxes were lower-maybe only by about $10 or $20 lower, but definitely lower."

For those interested in finding out specific property calculations, the Franklin County levy estimator is at: http://apps.franklincountyauditor.com. The Delaware County estimator is at: http://delaware-auditor-ohio.manatron.com/TaxEstimatorSite.aspx.

Burgess said if the current five-year levy would be allowed to expire at the end of 2017, district residents would see a much bigger reduction in their taxes as the levy would roll off the books.

The district's latest five-year forecast shows a cash carry-over balance of about $87 million by the end of fiscal year 2017. After encumbrances are satisfied and money goes into a reserve account, the district treasurer is projecting a fund balance of about $67 million by the end of next year.

"The district does not need to grow its revenue for at least seven to 10 years," Burgess said.

He claims the district has not shown enough "positive results" from the $16.5 million per year raised by the 2012 levy.

Bannister and Lynch disagree, saying the money collected has gone to restore bus routes cut after a failed levy request, has supported the magnet school program and reduced pay to participate fees, along with restoring and adding curriculum at all levels.

Bannister said any increase in the value of the levy would come only from new construction, not from existing residences and their owners.

Griffith said approving Issue 59 as a substitute levy would also continue the 10 to 12.5 percent real property tax rollback for residents, just as a renewal would. A replacement levy in the future would not have that benefit.

@PamelaThisWeek