© 2021 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

School And City Leaders Hinge Hopes On Tax Levy


Next month, Columbus School District voters face a big decision – whether to approve a 24 percent increase in school taxes. City and School leaders promise the schools levy will bring reform and improve the failing district.

City Council president Andrew Ginther says the district’s future hangs in the balance.

"I don’t believe we can reach our full potential as a community until we improve the education that our kids receive in every neighborhood throughout the city of Columbus," Ginther said.

How much money will the district need to reach its full potential?

The 9 mill levy request would cost homeowners an additional $315 in taxes per $100,000 in property value.

Use the green calculator on the right to find out how much this levy would cost you in additional taxes.

School city leaders are not threatening to eliminate bussing. They’re not saying sports will be cut or band rooms will go silent if the levy fails. They say they need the levy to fix the failing district.

The Columbus City School District received some of the lowest grades in the state. Most Columbus schools received D’s and F’s. School leaders say this levy request will bring Columbus up to par with some of the best districts in the state.

The proposed combined levy and bond issue will generate $76 million a year.

The biggest chunk of the levy, about $26 million a year, would pay for district operations - salaries, supplies, other bills.

One mill, or $8.5 million a year, would be used to replicate programs in the current “Aâ€? and “Bâ€? schools. Officials would target the many failing schools in the city’s poorest neighborhoods.

Ginther says officials will rely on a 15-member panel of parents, teachers, principals and business leaders to formulate ideas to boost school performance.

“We all need to take responsibility for not engaging with the school district and in the school district over the last couple of years the way we should,â€? Ginther said.

A big problem in the Columbus school district is losing talented teachers to suburban school districts. Officials say part of the levy will be used to attract and retain talented teachers in the district.

It will come at a price for Columbus school district residents. If the levy passes, Columbus school taxes will be higher than both Upper Arlington and Bexley.

Other parts of the levy will pay for facilities, and technology. The bond portion of the plan would pay for 10 school construction and renovation projects.

Leaders promise to spend a large portion of the levy on computers and technology with the goal of making sure every middle and high school student in the district has access to a computer.

The levy also targets preschool aged students.

Leaders promise to spend $8.5 million to expand pre-k programs so that all 4-year-olds in the district have a quality pre-k experience.

Superintendent Dan Good says the expansion could add as many as 4,800 young students to the district.

“Because we know from the 44 pre-schools that we do operate, 88.4 percent of those students test ready for kindergarten content whereas two-thirds of the students that don’t go through our pre-schools are not ready for kindergarten,â€? Good said.

For the first time, supporters want to use local levy money for privately-run charter schools. This took a change in state law. About $8.5 million would go to non-profit, high-performing charter schools.

Of the 87 existing charter schools in the Columbus district few are classified as high performing. So it’s expected the Mayor’s office will recruit other charter school operators who can meet the standards. Much of the opposition to the levy comes from parents and teachers who do not want to share levy money with charter schools. They say charters already have siphoned money and students from public schools.

And finally, a part of the levy – $1 million a year – would pay for a new independent auditor and staff to monitor the schools. The auditor would be appointed by a panel of city-elected officials.

Mayor Coleman says the school board needs an impartial check and balance.

“To ensure that all financial information is true and accurate; to ensure that all student data is true and accurate and so that when there are problems that arise, this independent auditor who will have the ability to stand up to the school board and the community and say that’s wrong."