In recent years, Grandview Heights Schools' ballot measures have passed by wide margins.

Whether Issue 6 -- the combined bond issue and operating levy the district has placed on the Nov. 6 ballot -- will pass is to be determined, but members of one opposition group hope the answer is "no."

No on Issue 6 is a grass-roots community group that has evolved to speak for what group members believe is a silent majority of voters in the district, said Tracy Kessler, treasurer for the PAC.

"There are a lot of people who are opposed to this particular bond issue at this particular time, but they may feel hesitant or afraid to speak up," she said. "We're here to be their voice."

The bond issue would fund a $55.2 million plan that would include construction of a new 4-8 building on the site of the current Edison Intermediate/Larson Middle School; comprehensive renovations of Grandview Heights High School; and limited upgrades to Stevenson Elementary School.

Safety and security measures would be added at each school and a connector would link the high school with the new 4-8 building.

The work at Stevenson would include only safety and security measures and make the building compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Issue 6 also includes a 1.0-mill operating levy.

The combined millage would cost homeowners $239 more in taxes annually for each $100,000 of property valuation.

While not connected to the Good for Grandview group that emerged during the facilities planning process, Kessler's group, she said, has a similar view that the plan as presented may be too large for the community to support.

"We're a group of concerned citizens who support some sort of bond -- but just not this one," she said.

Fewer than 10 people comprise the core of the committee, Kessler said.

"We are now up to over 70 residents who have publicly committed to voting 'no' on Issue 6," she said.

'Not anti-schools'

One of the group's main messages is that a vote against the bond issue is not a vote against the schools.

"We're not anti-schools or anti-community," Kessler said. "That's often how the other side is presenting us -- that we don't care about the schools or the students.

"We agree something needs to be done to address our school buildings, but the plan that has been presented is not the right fit for our community," she said. "There are people who are supporting our effort who probably would like to see more done with the schools than has been proposed."

Something Issue 6 detractors agree on is that the ballot measure and facilities plan as presented is the wrong plan at the wrong time, she said.

Kessler teaches fourth grade at the Columbus School for Girls.

"I've never voted against a school levy in my life," she said.

This time is different, Kessler said.

One problem with Issue 6 is that it ties the operating levy to the bond issue, she said.

"It puts people in a difficult position where, if they are opposed to the facilities plan, they have to decide whether to vote 'no' and defeat the operating levy as well," she said. "That's not a fair position to put people in. The two issues should be decided separately."

Kessler said she suspects combining the two into one ballot measure was a purposeful move to increase the chances of the bond issue's passage.

The bond issue will be one of the largest bond requests ever seen in Grandview Heights, she said.

It will be too high a price for some property owners to pay, especially after the latest property reappraisals from the county auditor's office, Kessler said.

"We would like the district to consider the welfare of all the residents in the community," she said. "After the reappraisal, people's taxes have gone up pretty significantly. Now we're being asked to pay even more tax money."

The increasing tax burden could begin to drive some people out of the school district and reduce the community's diversity, Kessler said.

One of the surveys conducted for the district during the facilities planning process showed 55 percent of voters and 44 percent of online respondents agreed with the statement that they would like to support the schools but can't afford to pay any new taxes, she said.

The owners of rental properties may not realize how much of an additional tax burden Issue 6 would bring them, said John Black, another member of No on Issue 6.

"If you rent a home or apartment and your landlord has to pay more taxes, they're likely to make up that cost by raising your rent," Black said.

"We would like the district to go back to the drawing board and consider a plan that only includes items that are absolutely necessary," Kessler said.

"Here they are looking to tear down the current middle school and the bond for that building isn't even paid off yet," Black said. "It just isn't responsible to do that."

"They've offered no compelling reason why the middle school building has to be torn down," he said. "The building's not that old. It's all about chasing the shiny new thing."

Edison/Larson was built in 1911, with additions in 1930, 1971 and 1996.

Treasurer Beth Collier said the district will make its final payment on the bond issue that funded the school's gym and commons area next year.

Many homes in Grandview are as old as or older than the district's school buildings, Kessler said.

"People aren't looking to tear their houses down," she said.

"If you have building issues, you fix them."

Wait for it

Kessler said any bond issue to fund facilities should wait until after a renegotiation of the school compensation agreement for the Grandview Yard development.

"Why do people want to vote on this now when we don't know what the result and impact of the renegotiation is going to be?" she asked.

"It may be a bad analogy, but it's like going to the bank and borrowing $55 million and they say, 'Yes, we'll loan you the money, but we won't tell you what the interest rate will be,' " Kessler said.

Voting for the $55.2 million bond issue "will give the school district irrevocable authority to do what want with the property-tax money," she said.

District officials say the facilities plan has been community-driven and reflects what the community wants, Kessler said.

But results from surveys the district conducted during its community engagement process belie that, she said.

An online survey conducted in June 2017 showed that 54 percent of respondents chose the option that included constructing a new 4-8 building was the best plan for the district and community.

"The rest of the responses totaled 46 percent, and so you can look at that survey result as being more of a 50/50 split," Kessler said.

No on Issue 6 has distributed yard signs and plans a literature drop before Election Day, she said.

"This is all very grass-roots," Kessler said.

"A lot of us are new to this. We're not politicians.

"The pro-levy supporters have done a fantastic job promoting their cause," she said. "They have a slick campaign. They know how to manage it.

"I feel like our effort is to speak up for ourselves and others in the community that may feel they have a little voice and get our view heard," Kessler said.

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