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New Albany Schools Campaign Enters Final Week

On February 7th, voters in the New Albany-Plain Local School District will go to the polls to decide a high stakes levy that amounts to one-half of the district's annual operating budget. The school money issue is also high stakes for residents who face the largest millage levy in recent memory in Central Ohio.

"Initially we did get some resistence," says Parent Chris Lopez. Lopez is co-chair of the group "Residents for Strong Schools." He has children in kindergarten and the 4th grade in the district, a vehicle full of yard signs encouraging people to vote for the levy and a tough job convincing them to do so. "and I think that was largely due to some miscommunication or some confusion about the level of the levy and how much of that actually represents a renewal." Continued Lopez.

The New Albany- Plain Local schools are asking voters to approve a 20.7 mill levy. That's two-zero-point-seven. New Albany returns to voters every 3 years with an operating levy. In 2003, the district asked for and received $10,000,000. This time around, they're asking for more than $17,000,000, an increase of nearly 80 percent.

Betty Mangione is the owner of the New Albany Mill. Mangione doesn't live in the district but says her annual taxes for the Mill are nearing $30,000, up $4,000 in just the past year. "Our taxes have increased to the point where it's very hard to stay in business." Says Mangione.

Out in the parking lot of the New Albany Mill, customer Hal Borovetz is putting his purchases in the trunk of his car. Borovetz figures the income of the average family in New Albany can probably handle passage of the levy, He adds, he's seen several tax increases during his years in the area. For their tax dollars, New Albany residents get schools in a matched set of white columned, red brick, Georgian style buildings. The school buildings are clustered on a single campus, connected by tree-lined walkways and surrounded by an 80-acre nature preserve.

The schools reflect the village of New Albany, a carefully-planned community, much of which is less than 20 years old.

Supt. Steve Castle says New Albany-Plain Local is one of the fastest-growing districts in central Ohio. New Albany is one of six districts in Franklin County's 16-school district area rated "Excellent" by the Ohio Department of Education...

Castle notes the New Albany district is 7th in central Ohio in dollars spent per pupil and 6th or 7th in effective millage. The district has managed to achieve excellence, he says, without spending more than most other districts

Castle says one of the reasons for a special election in February is to give officials time to issue lay-off notices to teachers and other staff by April 30th as required by state law, in case the levy fails.

To avoid issuing lay-off notices, Castle says the district needs $17,900,000. What impact will that have on residents? Although the multi-million dollar houses often get the attention in New Albany, the Franklin County Auditor's office gives the median price of a home in the New Albany-Plain Local school district as less than $307,000. If the levy passes, the owner of that median priced house will see his or her annual school tax bill go from about $1,100 to nearly $2,000.

Voters go to the polls February 7th to decide Issue 7 in the New Albany-Plain Local School district.