By Rick Palsgrove
Voters rejected Groveport Madison Schools’ combined levy/bond issue on May 7.
The vote on Issue 5 was 1,623 against (54 percent) and 1,386 for the issue (46 percent), according to unofficial election results from the Franklin County Board of Elections.
“We’re disappointed, obviously,” said Groveport Madison Superintendent Garilee Ogden. “It’s unfortunate for our district, but the community has decided this isn’t the time for this issue. The administration, along with the board of education, will get back to work to determine our next steps. We appreciate everyone who took the time to cast their vote.”
Ogden thanked everyone for their efforts and that, “It’s a hard thing as this loss impacts our teachers and our students’ educational experience.”
The 6.10 mill permanent continuing operating levy would have replaced the current five year 6.68 mill levy, which expires on Dec. 31, 2019.
According to information provided by Groveport Madison Schools officials, the failure of the levy means the district will see deficits of $2.7 million in 2020 and $5.6 million in 2021.
“We will lose $2.7 million in tax revenue,” said Ogden. “We cannot sustain what we’re doing without that funding.”
When asked why she thinks Issue 5 failed, Ogden said, “I can’t pick one thing. We received a variety of feedback from the community, but it’s hard to pinpoint one or two things that led to this result. We need to find the root causes for why the issue was opposed and we also need to get more people to the polls to vote.”
In May 2014, 6,863 total voters went to the polls when an operating levy and a bond issue for a new high school for Groveport Madison passed. On May 7, Issue 5 failed with only 3,009 total votes cast.
According to Aaron Sellers, Franklin County Board of Elections public information officer, voter turnout was low countywide as only 7.2 percent of eligible registered voters in Franklin County voted.
Groveport Madison Board of Education member Nancy Gillespie said she was “super disappointed” in the election result and with the low voter turnout in the district.
“We have about 6,000 students so we should have at least 6,000 parents turnout to vote,” said Gillespie. “Where are our parents? We have a lot of work to do.”
Gillespie said the campaign committee ran “a positive campaign, but the voters didn’t respond.”
Ogden said the administration and board of education will analyze what the voters said and “then get together and do the right thing for our students.”
Ogden said the district is likely to place something on the November ballot, which could be a levy, a bond issue, or both, depending on what the board of education decides.
“We’ll have discussions about it soon,” said Ogden.
She added it is too late to file to place something on an August special election ballot.
With the levy’s failure, Ogden said it has not been determined yet what cuts will have to be made and when they will be made.
“The administration team and board of education will continue to look at different options regarding operations and the funding that comes with that,” said Ogden. “We know we need to work hard to continue our programs and curriculum that we now offer. We have to go back to the drawing board to determine our next steps and also do the same in regards to a bond issue for possible future funding for new buildings.”
As part of Issue 5, the voters also rejected a 37-year, 4.72 mill, $83.6 million bond issue which would have generated funds to build three new pre-K through sixth grade elementary schools and one new middle school for grades seven and eight. The pre-K through sixth grade buildings would hold about 1,067 students each and the middle school would hold about 1,000 students.
The bond issue would have also provided funds to demolish the existing elementary schools and middle schools (note: the school district and the city of Groveport were in negotiations regarding the possible repurposing of Groveport Elementary). The plan would have reduced the number of schools in the district from 10 to five.
If voters had approved the bond issue to build the schools, the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission would have funded 53 percent of the estimated $148.7 million project cost and Groveport Madison would have funded 47 percent.
The operating levy portion of the combined ballot issue would not have raised taxes, but the bond issue would have result ed in the estimated increased annual property tax for the owners of the following valued homes: $100,000 market value: $164.96; $125,000 market value: $206.20; $150,000 market value: $247.44; $175,000 market value: $288.68; and $200,000 market value: $329.92.
District officials had stated the bond issue was needed to: replace aging school buildings; ease student overcrowding; eliminate the 22 modular classrooms in the district; enable there to be identical academic and other programs in each school; result in less acreage to be maintained; create more overall efficiency; younger students would be separated from older students in the elementaries and buses; and provide for modern safety features (officials noted the current schools cannot be retrofitted to meet modern safety needs).
In 2012, the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission recommended the district replace all of its schools because the cost to renovate them would exceed the cost of building new. (The high school has already been replaced.) The estimated cost to renovate the schools would be $78 million, according to the OFCC.
The Franklin County Board of Elections will certify vote totals from the May 7 election by May 28.