Westerville City School District officials say a portion of Issue 8, a 1.95-mill bond and 5.9-mill operating levy on the Nov. 5 ballot, would address facility-assessment needs at some of the district's oldest buildings.
If approved, Issue 8 is estimated to cost homeowners an additional $274.75 annually per $100,000 in property valuation.
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, a 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.
Greg Viebranz, the district's executive director of communication and technology, said infrastructure upgrades to the district's oldest systems ensure that none of them get to the point of failure, which could cause more significant issues for the building.
Scott Dorne, facilities and operations executive director, said Hanby Elementary, 56 S. State St., is a good example to illustrate the need.
The school was built in 1922 with an addition built in 1930.
Dorne said just a few years ago, a sanitary line in the girls' restroom had to be bypassed because the sinks weren't draining.
District maintenance manager Bob Letterio said Hanby, like some of the older schools, has aging sanitary lines with old steel piping that corrodes.
"The insides of the pipe get closed up; particularly, this one here was close to 90%," he said. "We had to, basically, bypass all that piping and run new in order to keep that facility, that lavatory, functional. We've had some vent pipes we've had to sleeve for the same reason. The piping just rotted out, which is typical of your older buildings like this, where a lot of the piping is in the walls."
Letterio said there are issues with water lines for the same reason.
"You can't access them because they're mortared into the walls," he said. "We've had to do some branch line replacement. That's basically the larger, 2-inch water line running through the building that service various sections. We've had to replace branch lines because they just rotted out."
In addition to Hanby, the other two other oldest buildings are Emerson, built in 1896, and Longfellow, built in 1931.
Dorne said the average age of the district's buildings is 52.
In 2017, Dorne said, the Facility Master Plan addressed buildings that were 55 years old and older.
"When we do a plan for this building (Hanby), Emerson and Longfellow, we know needs based on what the assessment says," he said. "We will see of those components, what has the greatest need. We will do a feasibility study."
Dorne said the district currently has a permanent- improvement fund, providing about $9 million annually in revenue.
When the district was looking at its facility master planning process as part of the needs assessment two years ago, he said, architects and engineers went through each district building and identified about $140 million in needs.
"Of that $9 million a year that we have as current revenue, about $4 million can go to our buildings," Dorne said. "Four million over 10 years is about $40 million. So, we have about a $90 million gap there. So, Issue 8 helps us with that. It helps us address some of our oldest buildings."
He said the basement of Hanby shows many issues involving infrastructure, including the water system and electrical wiring.
"Infrastructure means your water system, your electrical system, roofing -- all those things that don't have direct impact on instruction but are needed for you to be able to have instruction in our schools," Dorne said. "As an example, we put in a new domestic water heater with our current funds. Everybody's house has a hot-water tank it. Every now and then, they just age out. That's some of the items we're facing across the district that are aging out. Our condition assessment for the next 10 years takes a look at what we expect to age out in the next 10 years."
He said infrastructure doesn't involve the most appealing things to think about, but they're necessities that have to be taken care of from time to time.
Susan Fulton, a resident who opposes Issue 8, said infrastructure was supposed to have been addressed with the last permanent-improvement levy.
"Over the years, they were also addressed by panels of residents and staff as items that should have been done long before," she said. "I recall, about 2009, a group had submitted suggestions for future items that needed addressed. These are issues that they always say they want to do but somehow they get pushed to the background."
Fulton said everyone wants safe and well-built buildings so the district should focus on using the existing schools, add to them as needed since the district owns the land around them and save the taxpayers money.
Aaron Sellers, a Franklin County Board of Elections spokesman, said a political-action committee has registered in connection to the school ballot issue Oct. 9.
Jim Burgess is registered as treasurer of Taxpayers for Westerville Schools, a group opposing Issue 8.
Burgess said the PAC has been around and continually working since prior to 2012.
The group has a flyer that is being distributed to district residents in response to Issue 8.
"We have our strategy, and we don't share those details," he said.
The flyer urges residents to vote "no" to Issue 8 "until we have a plan that works for all residents."
Colleen Moidu, campaign co-chairwoman of Our Community, Our Schools, a group promoting the issue, said she's finding that when people have accurate information and have their questions answered, most support Issue 8.
"So, the primary goal of the campaign is to get accurate information about the Issue into the hands of voters," she said.
For more information, go to westerville.k12.oh.us and click on the tab that says Issue No. 8 (November 5, 2019 levy).