Voters will find a tax issue on the May 8 ballot that, if approved, would fund a new elementary school and improvements for buildings for K-8 in the Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools.

School board members unanimously approved a resolution Jan. 25 to place an operating levy and a bond issue on the primary ballot. The issue is for 5.5 mills, with a 1.22-mill, 30-year bond issue and a 4.28-mill continuous operating levy.

The cost to the owner of a house with a market value of $100,000 would be an additional $16 per month, or $192.50 per year.

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District treasurer Kristine Blind said that same homeowner currently pays $112.53 per month, or $1,350.36 per year, based on the district's effective tax rate.

Superintendent Steve Barrett said the proposed issue is the result of a 2017 Master Facilities Plan meant to address overcrowding and the need to update school facilities.

The new elementary school would be built on district-owned property on Helmbright Drive and replace the current Lincoln Elementary School, which is dilapidated, he said.

The bond also would cover the cost of renovating restrooms, media centers and classrooms in K-8 buildings.

Barrett said the district has been dedicated to the fiscally responsible management of funds raised through its last operating levy, which passed in 2011, and made $1.3 million in spending reductions last spring to extend that levy's life.

Barrett said the district worked with a master-facilities planning committee, which included parents, school leaders and community members, to develop this plan.

"We deliberated a long time," he said. "We definitely didn't rush this process, because we wanted to hear from everyone.

"I think the spirit of this combined operating-bond was about asking our community permission to do these great things for kids."

Barrett said he's grateful for the citizens who invited district representatives into their living rooms to talk about facilities.

"We want to talk to anyone who wants to talk to us," he said. "If there's people out there who disagree with any aspect of this plan, please host a coffee. We'd love to sit in your living room and hear what you have to say."

Board member Matthew Campbell said the district's stakeholders have asked for a plan for years, and the planning committee and school authorities finally provided that, attaching it to the ballot issue.

"I feel that we've thinned down the budget as much as possible in the time we had," he said. "It's a good time to move forward."

He said he knows some people might disagree with the plan or the concept of seeking a levy.

"I'd have to say this board has probably done the most work and the leadership has done the most work of any Gahanna board or leadership in the past decade, knowing how to get everything communicated and put together in the right way."

Board member Jennifer Chrysler said she thinks the district has shown fiscal responsibility by making cuts and then having a citizen-led voice (the committee) determine what the needs and plan.

"I think Steve has done a fantastic job of getting not only support for the plan, but really listening to what people wanted out of it, and the timing of it and how it should be implemented," Chrysler said.

She said she's excited about what the issue means for Gahanna, because good schools translate to a phenomenal community.

"A phenomenal community means that all of our finances and investments are protected," Chrysler said. "It's really, really refreshing and great to see this district moving forward in such a healthy and strategic way."


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