A day after Westerville residents approved a combined 1.95-mill bond and 5.9-mill operating levy, schools superintendent John Kellogg said the district is pledging to stretch its resources as long as possible.
“Right now, there's a lot of planning that has to take place,” he said. “We have project schedules to develop, facility designs to explore, and a handful of other logistical matters to sketch out.”
He said an executive-leadership team meeting was held Nov. 6 to start discussing all that will place now that Issue 8 has passed.
“We'll certainly share details as they become available, but I want to make sure everyone is aware of one important comment coming from this meeting,” Kellogg said.
He said it was stated very clearly the district needs to do all it can to be accountable to the community, and to stretch the new resources as long as possible, just as was done with revenue from the emergency levy passed in 2012.
“We spent more than two years engaging our community to develop our facilities plan, and residents can count on continued opportunities to help shape the future of our schools as we move forward with the first five years of our facilities plan,” he said.
The combined bond and operating levy is estimated to cost homeowners an additional $274.75 annually per $100,000 in property valuation.
The bond issue will 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.
District treasurer Nicole Marshall said the operating levy would fund items for the general operations of the district.
She said the operating levy is estimated to generate about $15.6 million annually for the general fund while the bond will generate $103 million for the building projects.
From a financial standpoint, Marshall said, the district will begin the process to issue the bonds.
“There's a lot of up-front work that goes into that, so we're still a few months away from actually receiving the revenue,” she said. “Just over two years ago, due to the district's financial position and strong fiscal management, Moody's Investors Service upgraded our bond rating to Aa1.”
Marshall said that is the second-highest possible ranking and the district is among few in Ohio that have earned either the highest or second highest rating.
“What that means for our taxpayers is a better interest rate and the ability to get the most out of these funds as possible,” Marshall said. “We're also staying on top of the steps we need to take to ensure we receive credit toward future facility projects through the state's Expedited Local Partnership Program and Classroom Facilities Assistance Program.
“The bottom line is that we're going to do our best to stretch these facility dollars as far as possible and take full advantage of opportunities to reduce the impact to taxpayers now and in the future,” Marshall said.
Colleen Moidu, co-chairwoman of Our Community, Our Schools, a group that promoted Issue 8, said a vote for the combined issue was a vote to ensure Westerville students have the resources they need to be successful, including adequate space and staff to accommodate projected enrollment growth.
“It also was a vote for the safety of our students and staff,” she said. “And, it was a vote of confidence in the district and board of education.”
Moidu said district leaders have demonstrated transparency, strong fiscal management, and extensive community engagement in the years since the 2012 levy passed.
“Truly, a vote for Issue 8 was a vote for the future of our community; a community I am proud to be a part of,” she said. “I look forward to watching our community's children enter the new elementary and new middle school, and to the peace of mind we will have knowing all of our schools have safe and secure entryways.”
Issue 8 was approved in Franklin County 8,528 votes (55.13%) to 6,941 (44.87%), according to unofficial final results from the Franklin County Board of Elections. In Delaware County, more voters said no than yes to the combined issue, with 4,114 votes (54.40%) against compared to 3,449 (45.60%) in favor, according to unofficial results. Combining the two counties, Issue 8 was approved 11,977 votes (52%) to 11,055 (48%).