Three Westerville City School District information sessions will be held regarding the district's 1.95-mill bond issue and 5.9-mill operating levy on the Nov. 5 ballot.
The sessions for Issue 8 will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 30, at Hawthorne Elementary School, 5001 Farview Road; 10 a.m. Oct. 4 at the Genoa Township Building, 5111 S. Old 3C Road; and 6:30 p.m. Oct. 9 at Annehurst Elementary School, 925 W. Main St.
District treasurer Nicole Marshall said the 5.9-mill operating levy would allow the district to maintain programs and services at the current level.
She said the bond is intended to provide funding for a new middle school, new elementary school, safety and security updates districtwide, renovations and additions at Annehurst and Whittier elementary schools, renovations at Hawthorne Elementary School and address facilities-assessment needs at Hanby, Emerson and Longfellow elementary schools.
If approved, the estimated annual cost of the 5.9-mill operating levy and 1.95-mill bond issue would be an additional $274.75 per $100,000 in property valuation.
Colleen Moidu, who is co-chairwoman of Our Community, Our Schools, a group to support the issue, said district Superintendent John Kellogg and Marshall would lead the sessions.
It does not appear an organized opposition group has formed against the school bond and levy.
"There will be a short presentation on the ballot issue followed by a question-and-answer session," Moidu said about the information sessions. "Those attending will have an opportunity to write down their questions and have them answered during the Q&A portion of the forum."
Kellogg said it's sometimes easier for residents to jot down questions rather than speak from a microphone.
"Sometimes they don't want questions they're asking to be attached to them," he said. "Our team will do a presentation to talk about components of the issue -- the financial aspects and how we would use those additional resources moving forward. Nicole will talk about the financials."
He said he estimates sessions will last 45 to 60 minutes based on presentations they already have completed.
"We'll put ourselves in front of everyone," Kellogg said. "We're extremely transparent. We're finding as we put information before people, they tend to indicate support around what we're trying to do. The more informed, the more supportive they tend to be."
In talking to other area superintendents, he said, the district is on the ballot during a difficult time.
"It's a large ask," he said. "I'm not unaware of that. School districts are the largest public-funded entity in the community."
He said Westerville hasn't asked for operating funds in seven years and funds for facilities in about 20 years.
"We feel we've demonstrated strong fiscal management to the community," Kellogg said.
He said the bond issue was built based on community engagement.
"On the operating side, it goes back to strategic planning efforts," Kellogg said. "A lot has come out of strategic planning meetings."
He said providing students with opportunities for college credit, meeting their emotional needs and decreasing fees are all tasks the district has accomplished over the last few years because of what community members said in strategic planning.
"We feel it reflects community aspirations for us," he said.
Greg Viebranz, the district's communications and technology executive director, said one item that seems to surprise residents is there are so few schools in the south end of the district that's home to about 7,000 students.
Additional schools in that part of the district would help reduce classroom sizes at the existing elementary schools including Hawthorne, Huber Ridge and Wilder.
Viebranz said the district's growth is primarily happening at the elementary and middle school levels, while the high schools can handle the growth.
"We have a goal to give more students the opportunity to attend school closer to their homes and neighborhoods," he said.
Kellogg said an increase in enrollment is one of the main drivers behind the bond request.
He said Westerville is an area that is attractive to families and businesses, and the schools want to be part of the larger imprint.
"There's an uptake of positive movements across all sections that add value, but it takes a larger investment," Kellogg said. "It's a larger goal."
Moidu said Our Community, Our Schools will host a rally from 10 a.m. to noon Oct. 5 at Hawthorne.
"The rally will be an opportunity for supporters to come together exactly one month before the election to connect, learn and build momentum for the final month of the campaign," she said. "We will have three different people speaking, including a parent and a community leader."