By Rick Palsgrove
Groveport Madison Schools and Columbus City Schools have reached a separate deal regarding the Win-Win Agreement.
The Groveport Madison Board of Education voted 4-1 to approve the bi-lateral agreement on May 25 with board member Chris Snyder being the lone dissenting vote.
Columbus City Schools agreed to give Groveport Madison a discount on Groveport Madison’s annual Win-Win payment to Columbus City Schools. Groveport Madison most recently was paying $855,000 annually to Columbus Schools as part of Win-Win. Under the bi-lateral agreement, the amount Groveport Madison is required to pay Columbus City Schools under the current Win-Win Agreement would be reduced by 40 percent, saving the district an estimated $370,000 per year.
The bi-lateral agreement between the two school districts also allows Groveport Madison to protect the Blacklick Estates area and Edgewater Park, located in an unincorporated area of Madison Township, from being transferred into the Columbus City School district. Five of Groveport Madison’s 10 school buildings – Middle School North,and Dunloe, Sedalia, Madison and Asbury elementaries – are located in the Blacklick Estates area.
However, other unincorporated areas of Madison Township, primarily areas east and south of the city of Groveport and the Berwick area along Winchester Pike, are not protected from potential territory transfers to Columbus City Schools under the bi-lateral agreement.
“Overall more than 90 percent of the Groveport Madison students are now protected (from territory transfer to Columbus City Schools,” said attorney Adam Miller, who represented Groveport Madison in its negotiations with Columbus City Schools. “We got a lot of what we asked for. This is the first stage in a continuing modernization process (of the Win-Win Agreement).”
The remainder of the Win-Win Agreement stays in place between the two school districts and the seven other suburban school districts that are part of Win-Win.
“Over the past six months, the treasurer and I reviewed the Win-Win Agreement, and it was evident that, in its current form, the agreement disproportionately impacted Groveport Madison Schools, when compared with other area Win-Win districts,” said Groveport Madison Superintendent Bruce Hoover. “We were paying the highest percentage of our total operating revenue to Columbus City Schools to protect considerably less property value, when compared to other Win-Win districts. It just didn’t make sense and it didn’t seem right.”
Added Groveport Madison Treasurer John Walsh, “We will see the benefit of this agreement right away. We had budgeted $750,000 this year to pay CCS our share of the Win-Win payment. Now, we’ll pay about 40 percent less. Over the course of our five-year forecast, we will save more than $1.9 million. That’s money we can use to support our students.”
Hoover said the bi-lateral agreement also provides stability to the district’s boundaries.
Board member viewpoints
Board President Libby Gray said she was frustrated the district could not get 100 percent of its area protected from potential territory transfer, but the bi-lateral agreement does provide some stability.
“If we withdrew from Win-Win, we could fight property transfers, but the legal fees to fight each and every property transfer would be extremely costly to the district,” said Gray. “At some point we would not be able to contest them because of financial constraints. We don’t know what the future holds for the Rickenbacker area, but we have seen tremendous growth in the area and I would expect the future tax base for that area could help the district in the future financially. I hope we will be able to work with the city of Groveport, Madison Township, and our state legislature to secure this area for the district’s future.”
Board member Chris Snyder is wary of Columbus.
“We’re still paying them (Columbus City Schools) a lot of money to not take land they don’t want,” said Snyder. “They’ve had 30 years to transfer those lands and they never have. We’re fortifying our front door to the north while the enemy is knocking on our back door to the south (near the Rickenbacker Airport commercial areas). What Columbus wants we haven’t protected at all.”
Board member Bryan Shoemaker said he came into the meeting prepared to “wash my hands of the whole thing” and that, though he, too, is wary of Columbus, he voted for the bi-lateral agreement on the stipulation the district can re-open discussions about it in the future if necessary.
“Good faith can turn and go against you,” said Shoemaker. “Columbus was taking a higher percentage of funds from us for years. They didn’t give a damn about us up to this point. If we were sold the farm I really want the agreement opened back up again and reviewed. It may not be as good a deal as it is being painted. We could be pawns.”
Board member Nancy Gillespie said, “The most important thing for me is that the bi-lateral agreement offers the students and families in Blacklick Estates protection (from territory transfers to Columbus). The people in the Blacklick Estates area are long-time, loyal residents of our district.”
Board member Mary Tedrow was positive about the bi-lateral agreement.
“I don’t see how we could turn it down,” said Tedrow. “We can always revisit it in a year and a half.”
What is Win-Win?
Established in 1986, Win-Win is a legal agreement between Columbus City Schools and several suburban school districts that settled disputes regarding which school districts students would attend and which districts would collect tax revenues in unincorporated lands being annexed by the city of Columbus. Under the agreement, which was amended in 1992:
•Shared educational programs and services were cooperatively developed and provided through the establishment of the Franklin County Education Council (which is now defunct with what remained of its responsibilities folded into the Educational Service Center).
•School district boundaries remain as they were at the time of the agreement in 1986. Any areas that were within the city of Columbus limits, but were in a suburban school district prior to 1986 remain in that suburban school district.
•Unincorporated land is automatically transferred to the Columbus school district if and when it is ever annexed into the city of Columbus after 1986.
•Suburban districts agreed to share tax revenue with Columbus City Schools. Columbus receives 1 percent of tax growth (with a limit of around $1 million per year) from new commercial development in the areas served by the suburban schools.
•Districts can decide whether to renew or drop out of the agreement every six years.