Frequently asked questions
Why is this levy needed now?
Due to increased enrollment and expanding opportunities for students, the time has arrived for additions, renovations, and updates to our educational spaces and Master Facilities Plan. Our students, staff, and schools are accomplishing great things and we want to provide the proper academic and extra curricular spaces to stay on the cutting edge as we continue moving WCS forward into the future.
For nearly twenty years, our district has worked to provide the best possible education to our students and their families without asking for funds to expand our classroom spaces. As we approach 2021, we are met with a new challenge: our programs and our student body have outgrown our buildings. Our enrollment is projected to continue to grow and some of our buildings are nearly a century old.
We need to pass this combined bond and operating levy now for three reasons:
-Enrollment is projected to increase by 1300 students in the next 10 years and we need to plan for those students now. Many of our school are already at or past capacity.
-We have postponed repairs and renovations on our aging fleet of buildings. We cannot postpone those necessary safety, electrical and mechanical repairs any longer if we hope to maintain those buildings at educational standards.
-The costs to maintain existing programs and services has climbed. Despite a strong record of cost savings and cost avoidance, we will need additional operating dollars simply to maintain the balanced budget we need to guarantee existing services for the next three years.
How does the district know new buildings are needed?
The State of Ohio conducted an assessment of the district in 2019 and recommended significant investment in new buildings to meet growing enrollment. Additionally, projections indicate that we will see an increase of 1300 students in the next decade. Many of our existing buildings are at or past capacity. We will need additional buildings to accomodate that growth.
Additionally, the district convened a committee of community members and asked them to assess current facilities and needs. The new Facility Plan reflects the recommendations of that committee.
How is the district going to plan new facilities?
The Board of Education convened a community committee to assess district facilities and make recommendations. The Board established a new 10-Year Facility Plan, based on those recommendations from the community, that addresses student enrollment increases and the need for new and renovated buildings.
In order to meet the needs of students and continue to offer a high-quality education, it was necessary that a levy be placed on the ballot.
What is being planned for this additional funding?
Whittier, Hawthorne, Annehurst, Hanby, Longfellow and Emerson elementary schools are the oldest buildings and will be updated first. The updated buildings will be able to deliver programs and experiences to ensure students are prepared for middle and high school programs and coursework.
The Community Committee recommended the district consider selling Hanby and Emerson, rather than renovate and repair the old buildings. However, feedback from the wider community indicated that sentiment was that the district should maintain our historical connection with these buildings and keep them as operating schools. In order to meet that community expectation and honor our past in these buildings, we need to renovate and repair those old buildings to bring them up to educational standards.
All schools in the district will see safety and security upgrades. These changes will ensure our students have safer and more secure entrances and access points at schools. We will also add and/or update visitor management, access control, and video security systems at every school.
Schools will see updated mechanical and electrical systems to support the use of modern technology and equipment and allow students to be more competitive in the workforce.
Renovating classroom space will allow the district to expand the option of all-day kindergarten.
Renovating classroom space will allow for the implementation of the redesigned middle school curriculum that will allow students a more robust education program and prepare them for high school and college coursework.
What is the difference between a bond and an operating levy?
Bond issues raise money that, by law, can ONLY be used for capital improvements (bricks and mortar). This bond issue portion of this levy will only be used for improvements and additions to our buildings and for building the new schools. The operating levy dollars are used to keep the district running and pay for programs, salaries, buses, and everything else that goes into running a district.
Our levy is a combined issue because both needs are critical for our district. We need the operating funds to continue existing services and programs at existing levels. We need the bond funds to make repairs and renovations to our buildings to ensure our buildings are safe and ready to meet the growing enrollment projection.
Our combined issue is composed of a 5.9 Mill Operating levy + a 1.95 Mill Bond.
What will the combined bond + levy cost?
$22.89 per $100k of taxable home value a month.
$274.68/year per $100k of taxable home value (Operating: $206.50/Bond: $68.18).
The $100k property value calculation provided above is based on market value
How do we know our school district will continue to grow?
The Urban Decision Group provided our district with a report in 2018 that indicated, while the number of individuals ages 0-18 is expected to decline in Ohio, Westerville's population in that age group is expected to climb by 3% by 2026. This indicates a trend: families like our community and our schools.
We need space to put an additional 1,300 students in the district, and we can't fit them into existing buildings, as many of them are already at or past capacity.
Space is only going to get tighter unless we begin planning for this need now.
Without these funds and additional classroom space, our schools will need to bring in outside trailer spaces to use as overflow and our classroom spaces will grow ever more crowded. This will lead to frustration for students and teachers alike.
How will the school district be accountable to citizens for the additional spending?
In developing committees and gathering public feedback via surveys and public meetings, the Board of Education has demonstrated their commitment to transparency and accountability at all stages of the process.
Westerville City Schools will continue that culture of transparency and commitment to fiscal responsibility and cost-avoidance through all phases of the planned renovation, repairs, building and updates.
How will this combined levy affect property values?
Property values are correlated positively with strong school districts. To maintain a strong school district, we need to ensure our district is home to safe facilities that are adequately sized to serve students and provide 21st Century educational experiences. Conversely, if we do not make critical repairs and renovations to our buildings, expand to meet growing enrollment, and hire enough teachers to meet that need, it will negatively impact property values as home buyers seek property in more competitive districts.
A 2017 study of by the National Association of Realtors found home buyers considered the quality of schools when looking for a new home. It has been estimated that a 5% improvement in test scores can raise prices by 2.5%. The bond issue provides adequate space and quality facilities to allow Westerville City Schools to continue to provide an outstanding and cutting edge education for our families and students.
How does the change in the 12% tax rollback impact this issue?
Prior to 2013, the State of Ohio subsidized all school district property tax levies for homeowners. The state would reduce the taxes paid by the home owner and reimburse the school district for this amount. There was a 10% rollback and reimbursement for all non-business properties and then an additional 2.5% rollback and reimbursement for all owner-occupied residences.
The law changed in 2013, and since that time, any new levies do not include the property tax rollback. The state is still reimbursing school districts for any levies prior to that date but will not reimburse for levies that are enacted after 2013.
This change in the State law makes it
harder for local communities to pass new school levies since it places 100% of the tax burden on local tax payers.
What is the school district's performance?
In Westerville City School, our commitment to preparing students for lifeling success extends from high school to preschool.
A+ Rating: Westerville City Schools earned an A+ rating and was identified as one of the top public school district in Ohio by Niche, an independent website that rigorously analyzes dozens of public data sets and millions of reviews to produce comprehensive rankings, report cards, and profiles for every K-12 school, college, and neighborhood in the United States.
Career Pathways program: The district’s Career Pathways program was cited as a contributing factor to the City of Westerville recently being named a 2019 Top 7 Intelligent Community by the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF).
Our Grads: Graduation rate more than 6% higher than the state average with more than 80% of graduates pursue a post-secondary education at colleges and universities around the world.
Over Two Decades of Recognition from SchoolMatch: Westerville City Schools earned the “What Parents Want” Award from the education and consulting firm SchoolMatch for the 25th consecutive year in recognition of providing the curriculum and academic rigor parents desire most for their children.
Prestigious 2015 Apex Learning Award of Excellence: Westerville City Schools is home to one of only six programs nationally that received the prestigious 2015 Apex Learning Award of Excellence for implementing blended and virtual learning programs that result in higher student achievement.
Our Scholars: Two Westerville Central students and one Westerville South student have achieved Semifinalist status in the 64th Annual National Merit Scholarship Program; eight students representing each district high school achieved Commended Student status.
Outstanding Preschool Program: Westerville City Schools’ Preschool Program received a Five-Star Step Up To Quality Award from the State of Ohio, the highest rating possible.
Increase in AP Courses Taken: a 40% increase in the total number of AP courses it offers in the last two years, which has resulted in a 38% increase in juniors and seniors taking Advanced Placement classes in that same time frame.
Fostering Innovation: Seventeen Westerville City School District students won coveted spots to attend and compete at the National Invention and Entrepreneurship Expo at the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn, Michigan.
Collaborative Teacher Partnerships: Two Westerville North High School teachers won a $7,500 Freedoms Foundation Leavey Award in support of the school’s Chem Gems Soap Company, an interdisciplinary, school-wide project in which students produce high-quality soaps, bath bombs, and lip balms. This is just one example of the collaborations between teachers across the district.
Does the operating levy portion cover costs for staffing the new buildings and renovated classroom spaces being added for the elementaries?
Yes. The operating levy is to maintain existing programs and services and includes staff projections for additional buildings and space.
On the auditor's website, which home value listed is the one that the property value is based on for tax purposes?
The county auditor's website shows both market value and assessed value. Assessed value is 35% of the market value. Assessed value is the taxable value. So this levy will cost $22.89 per $100k of market value.
Can you give examples of ways the district has saved money and demonstrated sound financial management?
Our district has demonstrated their sound financial management of levy and state funds.
Westerville City Schools recently received $99,500 in Local Government Efficiency Program grants from the Ohio Development Services Agency for training and programs that strengthen operational efficiencies, cut costs, and improve public services.
The Facility Maintenance Decisions magazine awarded Westerville City Schools with its Financial Management Award for initiatives that have helped the district achieve more than $15 million in cost avoidance over nine years with its utility expense planning.
District officials have worked hard to strengthen finances, stretch resources, and run the schools within current means. As a result, they have avoided deficit spending at least six years longer than initially projected. They have improved the district’s financial picture, even while restoring programs and services after deep budget cuts several years ago. These efforts are making great things happen for our schools.
Moody’s Investors Service recently upgraded the district’s tax bond rating from Aa2 to Aa1, which is the second-highest possible rating. This improved rating means lower interest payments on borrowed funds, which also means savings for taxpayers. We are one of just twenty Ohio school districts with this excellent rating from Moody’s.
What is the benefit of the Win-Win Agreement to Westerville City Schools?
In 1986, Columbus City Schools and Westerville City Schools (as well as several other suburbs) reached an agreement. Columbus was seeing dwindling revenues due to declining enrollment and had been annexing suburban neighborhoods to gain students and property tax revenue. The suburban districts wanted to avoid having chunks of its existing district territories annexed by Columbus City Schools and needed to keep their property tax base intact.
In exchange for a payment by the suburban districts to Columbus of about 1% of the new commercial and industrial property-tax growth, the City of Columbus agreed not to annex suburban school district territory and take the tax revenues and students into Columbus City Schools.
The remaining 99% of the commercial and industrial property taxes are retained by Westerville City Schools.
This agreements generates 30 million dollars annually to Westerville City Schools and without these funds the district could not operate.
UPDATE: In 2016, Columbus City Schools and the suburbs agreed to phase out the payments made to Columbus to maintain school district boundaries. The final payment will be made to Columbus in 2021.
School boundaries remain constant, thus alleviating the contentious "land-grab" situation of the 1970’s and 1980’s. Neighborhoods whose students HAVE ALWAYS been our students remain our students. 30 MILLION DOLLARS in needed commercial and industrial property taxes continue to help our district operate AND we will no longer pay Columbus City Schools the 1% in just a couple years.
This has truly been a WIN-WIN Agreement for Westerville City Schools.
What will be cut if this fails?
This current Board wants to avoid taking things to the brink by seeking revenue BEFORE we enter deficit spending. That's why we aren't talking about cuts at this point. We are trying to get out ahead of the need. We know the operating budget will need these funds, so we are requesting voters pass this now, before we get into a deficit budget or crisis moment.
If we can't pass the issue and begin deficit spending, the budget balance depletes quickly. When that balance nears or goes into the red, that’s when cuts are required.
Once districts begin experiencing fiscal issues, they are put into
a category by the state, either fiscal caution, fiscal watch, or fiscal emergency. They escalate in severity. Worst case, the state comes in and takes over operations of the district.
This is an opportunity for our community to show that it supports its schools and wants to maintain their fiscal stability, as well as community pride, in advance of that need so we can make smart plans and be cost effective in our use of the funding.
What if the State gives us more money in the next budget?
We can’t rely on the State budget. If they come through and give us significantly more money, then great. That helps keep us off the ballot longer for operations. But we can’t sit back and hope they give us significantly more over the next couple of state budget cycles. The State has historically underfunded public education needs.
Local support helps guarantee the health of our public schools to avoid entering fiscal caution, fiscal watch, fiscal emergency, and/or possible state takeover.
How long will the bond and operating levies be effective?
The county auditor certified that the operating levy of 5.9 mills would generate $15.6 million annually and is permanent. The county auditor also certified the bond issue at 1.95 mills, which is to general $103 million to be paid back over 37 years at 4.5% interest rate. All things remaining constant, the bond issue would generate approximately $5.2 million per year.
Is Blendon Middle School going to be changed into a swing space?
No.The District reviewed a proposal to use Blendon as a swing space but rejected it due to logistical challenges and community feedback. Blendon will remain one of our beloved middle schools (Go Bulldogs!).
Issue 8 aims to make Blendon even better by providing needed security upgrades for all our schools and by relieving pressure from increased enrollment by opening up a new middle school. This will result in smaller class sizes and more individual attention for students. Everyone wins with Issue 8!
Doesn't the District already have a Capital Improvement Fund?
The District is using those funds to renovate South High School and put some safety upgrades in place now. It's necessary to retain a balance in that fund to pay for facility repairs that arisethroughout the year. This summer, Hawthorne Elementary needed a new roof. Sometimes the HVAC system at a building needs attention or a building experiences a plumbing issue. This fund is also used to purchase buses. So we cannot deplete the Capital fund. The scope of repairs and renovations needed in our oldest elementaries (Emerson is 122 years old, for example) requires the additional capital funding investment represented in the bond component of this levy package.
How long has it been since the last levy?
Through careful management, stretching dollars, and taking rigorous care of school facilities, it has been 7 years since the Westerville City School District last asked voters for new operating revenue and 19 years since asking for new schools to manage enrollment growth.
District officials have worked hard to strengthen finances, stretch resources, and run the schools within current means. As a result of these efforts, district officials have avoided deficit spending at least six years longer than first expected and improved the district’s financial picture, even while restoring programs and services after deep budget cuts several years ago.
Is the District planning a magnet middle school?
There are no plans for a magnet middle school at this time.
What areas of Ohio are projecting enrollment growth?
How will the grade levels be split in the planned new elementary building, since it would reside so close to Hawthorne Elementary?
Each elementary would contain K-5. The District reviewed splitting the buildings by K-2 and 3-5 but decided that since transitions are challenging for students, it would be best to allow them to complete all of elementary in one building. Plus, we can only move forward with building that much needed elementary when we pass Issue 8.
Currently Hawthorne elementary school is home to over 700 students. That's a HUGE elementary schools. Plus, Hawthorne, Huber Ridge and Wilder elementary schools are the only three elementary schools in the south end of the district, which is home to over 7000 of our students. The need for additional schools in that part of the district is critical and would free up space and reduce classroom sizes in the other elementary schools across the district. All our students would benefit from more classroom space, more time with teachers, and less time spent on busing.
It is so important to pass Issue 8 so we can manage and accommodate our population's educational needs and plan for growth effectively.