The city of Groveport, the annexation process, and Win-Win

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By Rick Palsgrove
Southeast Editor

The negotiations regarding the Win-Win agreement between Columbus City Schools and area suburban schools, including Groveport Madison Schools, prompted questions from residents about the nature of annexations and the city of Groveport’s role in the process.

According to Groveport City Administrator Marsha Hall, a city can annex a property when the property owner requests to annex as long the property is contiguous to the city corporation limit.

“Any kinds of property can annex to a city, both residential and commercial/industrial, park land, and so on,” said Hall.

She said a city may pursue annexations for a variety of reasons including business development, residential development, and for parks.

The annexation process entails several steps.

“Steps for annexation depend upon the type of annexation,” said Hall. “While there are several types of annexation processes in Ohio, the one most used is a ‘Type 2 Expedited Annexation.’”

According to Hall, this annexation process requires that: 100 percent of the affected property owners agree to annex; and that the property will also remain a part of the township. Under this process:

•An annexation petition is filed with the county commissioners.

•The city agrees to annex the properties, and through passage of a service resolution, agrees to provide services (such as utilities, police, etc.) once annexed.

•The township formally agrees to the annexation request.

•If the petition meets all procedural prerequisites, the county commissioners approve the annexation without a hearing.

•The city council then approves the petition.

“In Groveport’s particular situation, based on a sewer service agreement between Groveport and the city of Columbus, Columbus must also approve providing utility services within certain areas outside of Groveport before Groveport can annex in that geographic area,” said Hall.

Legislation seeks to reform Win-Win

State Representative Mike Duffey (R-Worthington), and State Representative Heather Bishoff (D-Blacklick) introduced bipartisan legislation that would allow “Win-Win” school districts to opt into permanent boundaries, to provide stability to parents and students in these areas.

“We have areas that have been served by the same suburban school districts for over 100 years,” said Bishoff, whose district includes the city of Groveport and Groveport Madison Schools. “Yet these families could be annexed to Columbus City Schools overnight due to their proximity to more lucrative commercial areas in the same suburban districts being annexed. Due to these commercial areas being annexed suburban schools are losing millions in my district and potentially across the nine Franklin County schools. Nobody knew, until recently, how unfair this system has been. We can put school districts on a level playing field with the choice to set permanent boundaries.”

According to Bishoff, Win-Win provides protection for school boundaries in exchange for monetary payments to Columbus Public Schools. Neighborhoods in dispute were never in Columbus City Schools, so permanent boundaries would keep students in their current schools without the need for six-year contracts. It would remove Columbus’ ability to imply annexation.

“This bill would provide school district boundary continuity for families,” Bishoff told Groveport City Council on May 9. “It does not kill Win-Win, but it would provide a tool for Groveport Madison Schools. It gives school districts the ability to freeze and make their boundaries permanent.”

Bishoff said, while Win-Win initially was intended to end Columbus and suburban “turf wars,” it has “now become ironic.”

“When will our students have permanent boundaries? When will our districts be treated fairly? A 30 year solution needs modernization. It’s simply not fair to take a district’s land without permission,” said Bishoff.

Under state law, when a city annexes a township, a city’s school district may also annex that territory. It does not matter that the city’s annexation may have nothing to do with the school district boundary.

As a result, according to Bishoff, without additional protections in place, Columbus Schools may attempt to annex Groveport Madison and other districts’ territories without permission.

“Under the proposed legislation, school boards would have the option to pass a resolution to opt-into permanent boundaries, thus fixing the problem and removing any threat,” said Bishoff.

Bishoff said the bill must be approved by the Ohio House, the Ohio Senate, and be signed by Governor John Kasich before it can become law.

Unconstitutionality of school funding

Groveport City Councilwoman Jean Ann Hilbert stated the State Supreme Court has ruled  several times that the way property tax is used to fund the schools is unconstitutional, yet nothing has changed.

“The state legislature is acting unconstitutionally,” said Hilbert.

“There has to be some political will to act,” replied Bishoff. “I’m willing to work on it. I would tie school funding to a percentage of the general revenue fund of the department of education.”

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