Levy set for March vote: Board asks for increased taxes
A new levy is coming to the Olentangy Local School District (OLSD). The board will not vote on it until Nov. 5, meaning the details of the levy have not been board approved and everything in this article is what could happen rather than what will happen.
“The big driver of this levy need is enrollment growth at the elementary schools and at the middle schools,” Superintendent Mark Raiff said. As more students continue to enter Olentangy elementary and middle schools, schools being overcrowded become more inevitable.
“We are projected to grow by about 2,300 elementary students” and about “1,500 middle school students” in the next 10 years,” Raiff said. The absolute maximum capacity is 5,500 students for the middle schools and 18 available classrooms for elementary students.
However, the district has predicted overcrowding in middle schools in the next five years and overcrowding in elementary schools in the next two years.
“We have enough capacity in our high schools because we opened Berlin two years ago” and all the high schools will “flatten out right around 2,000 students” Raiff said. However, the need for new elementary and middle schools continue to grow.
“The levy is asking for a combination of two future elementary schools, one new middle school and facility improvements to every building in the district,” Raiff said.
The main motivation for facility improvements is security. “We are going to improve all of the security at all of the buildings,” Raiff said.
One of the main security improvements they plan on making is a more secure entrance into the buildings similar to Berlin. At Berlin, one “gets buzzed in, and they have to come into an office, show ID and talk to a person before they are allowed to enter the building,” Raiff said.
However, a secure entrance is not the only safety issue the levy is planned to focus on. It will also focus on making “all the elementary school playground equipment handicap accessible” and changing all playground surfaces to soft surfaces to make it both more accessible and safe for young children, according to Raiff.
The levy will be on the ballot on March 17, 2020.
“The levy in Olentangy isn’t an if, it’s a when” due to enrollment growth and a lack of state funding, Raiff said, “Our school district is almost entirely locally funded.”
Ohio’s average state funding per student is about $5,000. However, the Olentangy school district only receives $640 per pupil, according to Raiff.
“It costs us $11,000 to educate one child,” Raiff said, meaning that state funding does not cover the amount to educate one student.
There are three possibilities for how much the levy will increase property taxes. From cheapest to highest, the options are: $241.50 tax increase per $100,000 home value, a $276.50 increase per $100,000 home value and a $311.50 increase per $100,000 home value.
But for some Olentangy residents, the increase in taxes isn’t too appealing. “When I first heard that there is going to be another levy, I thought, oh no, my taxes are going to go up” said Janice Rhodes, a resident in the Olentangy district “That's not good for me because I am a retired widow living off of my Social Security and savings. That has to last me until I die.”
However the need for a levy is understandable for most Olentangy residents. “If the school district is growing and there are going to be more students, then I would imagine that they need more schools. I wouldn't think that the Board of Education would ask for the money until they need it.” said Rhodes.