The Ohio Supreme Court issued a ruling against the Delaware Area Career Center Wednesday in the case between the DACC and the Ohio Department of Taxation after tax bills were not sent to property owners at the start of this year.
The case centered around the DACC’s 2015 renewal levy.
The levy was passed by 10,644 votes in November 2015, and would have begun collecting taxes from voters at the start of this year. However, DACC officials learned in December that the Ohio Department of Taxation would not be collecting the tax bills for the levy because 1,026 voters who live in Franklin, Marion, Morrow and Union County were not able to vote on the levy when it was on the ballot in 2015.
The Delaware County Board of Elections has taken responsibility for not placing the levy on the ballot in the other four counties.
The Career Center filed a Writ of Mandamus with the Ohio Supreme Court on Jan. 17, asking them to intercede after the Department of Taxation refused to collect money for the levy because the 1,026 qualified voters in neighboring counties did not vote on the levy.
On March 8, the Supreme Court ruled 4-3 to deny the Career Center’s request, and said the tax commissioner could not be compelled to calculate tax rates for the five counties, because the board of educations had not certified results from all five counties.
“In this case, because no proper certification of the multi-county election has been presented to the tax commissioner demonstrating that the tax is ‘authorized to be levied,’ the tax commissioner does not have a clear legal duty to apply reduction factors and calculate tax rates for this levy. Accordingly, we deny the requested writ of mandamus,” the majority opinion wrote.
Justices Terrence O’Donnell, Sharon L. Kennedy, William M. O’Neill and R. Patrick DeWine ruled against the Career Center.
Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor dissented and pointed out that Delaware County accounts for 98.4 percent of the district, and said even if all 1,026 unaccounted voters voted “no” on the levy, it still would have passed by 9,618 votes. O’Connor was joined in the dissent by Justices Judith M. French and Patrick F. Fischer.
“We’re obviously disappointed,” said DACC Superintendent Mary Beth Freeman. “We are still looking at all of our options right now.”
Freeman said the outcome didn’t benefit the Career Center, but understood that the ruling has set a precedent that benefits and protects future elections.
The DACC’s filing with the Supreme Court reported that the Career Center should be receiving $7,119,937 in 2017 from the levy, but has not yet received any.
Freeman said in January the lack of tax dollars will affect the consolidation project. Freeman said the contractors will be finishing the walls, floors, roof and siding for the new wing of the consolidated campus, but will not be breaking down any walls at the south campus so the structure does not become compromised.
“We are already committed to certain pieces of this process,” Freeman said. “But we will be taking steps to protect our investment. Our focus has been and always will be remaining fiscally responsible with tax dollars and quality education for our students. Quality instruction is our number one priority.”
Freeman said the Career Center has not made a decision yet but is considering all avenues.
“We are being very diligent and taking time to make the best decision for our students and tax payers,” Freeman said.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.