Funds also will maintain fiscal stability while creating opportunities for students to attend schools closer to home
Westerville City School District (WCSD) Board of Education (BOE) members on Monday voted unanimously to request additional funding for facilities and operations by placing a combined levy on the November 5, 2019, ballot. The levy includes 1.95 mills for facilities and 5.9 mills for continuing operations. The estimated annual additional cost to property owners is $274.75 per $100,000 of valuation.
BOE members noted that the district has managed its finances extremely well, but has reached a point where additional resources are necessary to address facility needs and maintain fiscal stability.
“We’re acting upon the recommendations of our community-led Facility Master Plan team, this is not the Board’s wish list,” said BOE Member Rev. Vaughn Bell. “This issue better positions us for the future; acting now is in the best interest of our district, families, students, staff, and whole community.”
Through careful management, stretching dollars, and taking rigorous care of its facilities, it has been seven years since the district last asked voters for new operating money and nearly two decades since the district needed new schools for enrollment growth.
BOE Member Dr. Nancy Nestor-Baker said, according to current figures, the amount requested during the November 5, 2019, election keeps the district off the ballot longer and reduces the amount of a future request.
Operationally, the district has avoided entering deficit spending at least six years longer than earlier financial forecasts predicted. Treasurer/CFO Nicole Marshall said the operating portion of November’s issue maintains programs and services, while the bond portion funds initial projects from the district’s Facilities Master Plan, which include:
- A new elementary school and a new middle school in southern end of district;
- Additional safety and security updates at all schools.
- Renovations and additions at Annehurst and Whittier elementary schools;
- Renovations at Hawthorne Elementary School;
- Infrastructure updates at Emerson, Hanby and Longfellow elementary schools; and
BOE member Gerrie Cotter added that “now is the time” to address the district’s aging fleet of buildings and a growing enrollment.
Since new schools last opened in 2003, the district’s enrollment has grown by 1,300 students. Updated enrollment projections indicate the district’s student population will increase by another 1,300 children over the next 10 years. Opening two new schools in the southern end of the district means more students will have the opportunity to attend schools closer to their homes and neighborhoods, rather than having to bus them across the district.
BOE President Tracy Davidson noted that bond funds would ensure that every school receives more modern security features and systems to keep students and staff safe. BOE Vice President Rev. Rick Vilardo added that, except for a small amount of growth due to new construction, district operating revenue remains flat due to the effects of House Bill 920 and only increases with voter approval of an operating levy request.
Superintendent Dr. John Kellogg said additional funding would provide modern equipment and system upgrades to support a technologically advanced education that allows graduates to be more competitive in college and the workplace.
“We will be better able to implement our redesigned middle school curriculum and ensure that both middle and high school students have access to courses where they can explore high-demand careers, such as engineering, business, logistics, and the medical profession,” Kellogg added.
Residents interested in learning more about the district’s Facilities Master Plan can visit www.wcsoh.org/facilities for details. Video of the BOE’s discussion prior to approving the resolution to proceed will be available on the district’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/WCSDOhio.