Gahanna-Jefferson's Issue 22 would fund new high school

Marla K. Kuhlman
ThisWeek group
Judy Hengstebeck, Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools communications coordinator, takes a photo of Superintendent Steve Barrett as he looks at a plaque that notes a portion of Lincoln High School being built in 1927. Across from the 1927 plaque is another marker, noting the building was renovated in 1987.

Voters living in the Gahanna-Jefferson Public School District will find Issue 22 on the Nov. 3 ballot that, if approved, would provide funds for a new Lincoln High School, additions to other district school buildings and operating funds for the district. 

Mike Verlingo, district treasurer, said taxpayers are being asked to support a levy of 10.69 mills that consists of three components. 

The issue is for the second phase of the master facilities plan, said Superintendent Steve Barrett, and includes a 4.93-mill bond issue and a 1.5-mill permanent-improvements levy, for a total of 6.43 mills.

More:Campaign for Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools' Issue 22 in motion

More:Gahanna’s Issue 22 intends to address high school’s struggles with age, growth

If approved, the issue would finance the construction of a new Lincoln High School at its current site and additions to other district buildings.

Barrett said the district also is seeking a 4.26-mill operating levy to hire additional staff to keep pace with increasing enrollment and meet additional costs related to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The bond issue, operating levy and permanent-improvements levy total 10.69 mills.

The additional cost for the total package would be $31 per month, or $374 annually, per $100,000 of property value.

Verlingo said the bond and permanent-improvements levy both would be used to service debt for the construction of new facilities – a new Lincoln High School and expansion to all middle schools and some of elementary schools.

He said the operating piece of the levy is for the current operations, for transportation, maintenance, salaries, wages and all the ongoing expenses of the district to keep it solvent.

He said information is on the Franklin County auditor’s website by clicking on the levy forecaster tool.

Verlingo said the tool will calculate for each taxpayer the actual amount the issue will cost for a residence.

Barrett said part of Lincoln High School was built in 1927, and a renovation was completed in 1987. He said the systems in the high school are worn out and inefficient. 

Barrett said a 2019 enrollment study projected the district to be at 9,200 students by the 2038-39 school year. 

The enrollment currently is between 7,600 to 7,700. 

He said the district is at or over capacity at every middle school and elementary, except Chapelfield. 

“If this bond issue passes, it should take care of our building needs for the next 50 years. And so this is a big levy.”

Barrett said it would take about 24 months to plan for the new high school building and about 24 months to build it.

In addition to replacing Lincoln High School, he said, the issue would provide funds to add classrooms at elementary and middle schools where growth is occurring.

Barrett said he knows the coronavirus has presented a lot of problems with the economy and unemployment, and it’s a difficult time for voters. 

During a virtual question-and-answer meeting about the issue Sept. 24, he said the district is trying to get the community’s “permission” to move forward. 

“We know it’s a difficult time,” he said. "Each voter will make a decision that’s best for them. We’re good with that.”

District parents Cait Masarik and Carrin Wester are co-chairing Residents Building a Brighter Future, a committee to promote Issue 22.

The group's Facebook page is Vote for Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools Levy.

ThisWeek is unaware of any organized opposition group campaigning against the issue.

Although Election Day is Nov. 3, overseas and military absentee voting began Sept. 18 and early in-person and mail-in absentee voting began Oct. 6, according to the Ohio Secretary of State's Office voting schedule.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla