Upper Arlington's school taxes would make a significant jump, according to information from the Franklin County Auditor's Office, if a combined 8.92-mill bond issue and operating levy is placed on the November ballot and passed.

That would mean UpperArlington would go from having the 10th-highest school property taxes in central Ohio to the fourth-highest.

In its initial report unveiled last week, the volunteer Financial Advisory Board suggested the district needs to place a 5.17-mill bond issue on the Nov. 7 ballot that, if passed, would be collected over 38 years and generate $230 million, based on an estimated interest rate of 5 percent.

The advisory board also suggested the district seek a 3.75-mill operating levy, which would generate an additional $6.3 million for day-to-day operations, according to district Treasurer Andrew Geistfeld. That levy would replace a 4-mill operating levy voters passed in November 2013 that was designed to raise approximately $6.3 million per year.

Before Superintendent Paul Imhoff and Geistfeld offer a formal recommendation to the Upper Arlington Board of Education, district officials intend to gather community input through public meetings and surveys conducted online and via telephone.

According to the district's website, a building team meeting will be held April 3, with a time and location to be announced, and there will be two "communitywide engagement sessions" the following day.

The first will be from 9 to 11 a.m. on Tuesday, April 4, at Mountview Christian Church, 2140 Fishinger Road, followed by one from 7 to 9 p.m. at Upper Arlington High School, 1650 Ridgeview Road.

Imhoff and Geistfeld are expected to provide formal recommendations about a November bond issue, operating levy and future construction at a May 9 school board meeting.

According to information provided by the district, Upper Arlington homeowners currently pay a little more than $1,500 per $100,000 of home valuation as determined by the Franklin County Auditor. That ranks 10th-highest out of 15 central Ohio districts.

The region's highest school property taxes currently are paid by homeowners in the Hilliard school district, at $1,893 per $100,000 of home valuation, with Olentangy ($1,834 per $100,000), New Albany ($1,830 per $100,000), Westerville ($1,812 per $100,000) and Dublin ($1,729 per $100,000) rounding out the top five.

"The rankings do not take into consideration the impact of income taxes that some districts collect," Geistfeld said.

However, should the combined 8.92-mill bond and levy be placed on the ballot and pass -- assuming no changes occur to other districts' tax rates -- Upper Arlington's school property taxes would move up to the fourth-highest in central Ohio, at $1,813 per $100,000 of home value.

"This isn't a Band-Aid," Financial Advisory Board member Andy Livingston, executive vice president of Huntington National Bank, said of his group's findings. "This is a long-range plan that will help not only the children of today but, in essence, the children of Arlington who aren't even born yet."

According to Geistfeld, the combined bond issue and levy would cost the owner of a $400,000 home an additional $1,249 in property taxes each year.

"Compared with 2017 tax numbers, that would be approximately a 14 percent increase in overall property taxes and a 21 percent increase in school-related property taxes," the Financial Advisory Board report said.

In addition to the bond and levy package, the advisory board -- made up of 10 community members who are business executives or have experience funding and managing public projects -- suggested that the district solicit at least $5 million in private donations to finance what would be the first of two phases to upgrade buildings.

Under that direction, the district would seek to rebuild Upper Arlington High School to include four stories, and would renovate or rebuild the district's five elementary schools.

The FAB's informal recommendation called for delaying construction at the district's middle schools and Burbank Early Childhood School until the second phase of the overall project, for revisiting the funding and scope of that work in 10 years.

"We're not done working with (the FAB)," Imhoff said. "This is not a recommendation. These are initial findings ... for the purpose of feedback."

According to school officials, upgrades are needed at the district's nine buildings for a variety of reasons.

The buildings are an average of 60 years old and have issues ranging from leaking roofs to antiquated heating and ventilation systems. They are not designed to meet today's "best practices" in education, which call for more collaborative learning spaces that are open and allow for more natural light throughout the facilities.

Imhoff repeatedly has said it would cost approximately $188 million over the next 15 years simply to repair and maintain the current facilities. He has said enrollment is projected to grow by more than 10 percent through 2025-26.

In discussing the FAB findings with the school board on March 7, Geistfeld noted the district has kept a promise not to ask for another operating levy before November 2017. The FAB report noted that the 3.75-mill operating levy request would be the district's smallest in more than 35 years.

Imhoff asked the community to continue to offer its opinions.

"We want to hear from as many community members as possible to find out how they feel about the Financial Advisory Board's initial findings," he said. "At the end of April, the members of the FAB will come back together to review all of that feedback and make any necessary revisions."

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