By Rick Palsgrove
Groveport Madison Schools plans to begin negotiations to enhance its recent bi-lateral agreement with Columbus Public Schools under the 30-year-old Win-Win concept.
“We worked to get what we could with the agreement, now it’s our turn again,” said attorney Adam Miller, who is representing Groveport Madison Schools in phase two of the negotiations.
Last spring, Groveport Madison and Dublin negotiated a separate bi-lateral agreements with Columbus Schools. Recently, Hilliard, Westerville, and South-Western schools negotiated their own separate bi-lateral agreements with Columbus Schools where they secured their district borders and came to an agreement to phase out their annual payments to Columbus Schools under Win-Win.
The Groveport Madison Board of Education instructed Miller and district officials to pursue two main points in their new negotiations with Columbus: protect Groveport Madison’s boundaries and eliminate the district’s annual Win-Win payments to Columbus Schools.
“We don’t want to lose any students,” said Board President Libby Gray.
Added board member Nancy Gillespie, “We’ve always paid more than other districts and now we need to be compensated.”
Miller said the district has the legal and negotiation avenues to pursue its goals.
“We have a good chance to get what’s fair for the district,” said Miller.
Gray said she felt other districts “were laughing at” Groveport Madison because they negotiated what could be perceived to be better agreements with Columbus than Groveport Madison.
But Groveport Madison Superintendent Bruce Hoover noted the process should not be viewed as “winners and losers” because the full details of those other agreements between suburban schools and Columbus are not publicly known right now.
“There’s a lot of details in the terms of those other deals we don’t know about. Columbus wouldn’t be giving away anything for nothing,” said Hoover.
The board instructed Miller to make public records requests to find out the full details of the other districts’ agreements with Columbus.
Last May, the Groveport Madison school board approved a bi-lateral agreement with Columbus Schools where Columbus agreed to give Groveport Madison a discount on Groveport Madison’s annual Win-Win payment to Columbus Schools. Groveport Madison had been 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 Schools under the current Win-Win Agreement was reduced by 40 percent, saving the district an estimated $370,000 per year.
That bi-lateral agreement allowed 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 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.
Other unincorporated areas of Madison Township, primarily areas east and south of the city of Groveport near Rickenbacker as well as the Berwick area along Winchester Pike, are not protected from potential territory transfers to Columbus Schools under the bi-lateral agreement.
Groveport Madison officials stated the bi-lateral agreement was needed because Groveport Madison had been paying the highest percentage of its total operating revenue to Columbus Schools to protect considerably less property value when compared to other Win-Win districts.
Areas in Groveport Madison that could be annexed by neighboring cities and possibly transferred out of the district include potentially commercial revenue producing land south and east in the district around Rickenbacker Airport. Also in play are areas in the Berwick area along Winchester Pike. Any annexations by the city of Groveport would remain in the Groveport Madison district.
“Columbus and Groveport are the closest cities for potential annexation around Rickenbacker,” said Miller, though Canal Winchester is close by.
Miller said Groveport Madison should consider obtaining bi-lateral agreements with all neighboring cities including Groveport, Columbus, Canal Winchester, and Reynoldsburg to protect the district’s territory from potential transfer.
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 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.