Delaware Area Career Center Superintendent Mary Beth Freeman said Monday that after the Ohio Supreme Court rejected its motion to reconsider on Friday, the career center is taking steps to put a repeat of the 2015 renewal levy on the ballot this November.
In 2015, voters in Delaware County passed the DACC’s renewal levy by 10,644 votes and the DACC would have begun collecting taxes this January from Delaware County, as well as small portions of Union, Morrow, Marion and Franklin County.
However, DACC officials learned in December that the Ohio Department of Taxation would not be approving the levy because 1,026 voters who live in Franklin, Marion, Morrow and Union counties were not able to vote on the levy when it was on the ballot.
The Delaware County Board of Elections has taken responsibility for not placing the levy on the ballot in those 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 approve the levy because the 1,026 qualified voters in neighboring counties did not vote on the levy and on March 8, the Supreme Court ruled 4-3 to deny the career center’s request.
On March 20, the DACC filed motion to reconsider, arguing that the Supreme Court’s decision had far reaching implications and gives the Ohio Department of Taxation too much authority and essentially granted the tax commissioner unwarranted authority to deny any election outcome.
On April 7, the Supreme Court ruled 4-3 to deny the motion to reconsider.
“We’re certainly disappointed with the outcome of our motion to reconsider with the Ohio Supreme Court,” Freeman said.
Freeman said the DACC is now exploring their options to place a re-do of the 2015 levy on the ballot this fall.
“We’re optimistic that the voters appreciate the quality learning experience and the educational benefits the DACC provides,” Freeman said. “We’re equally hopefully they will support our ongoing funding like they did before. The DACC appreciates the continued support of our community throughout this challenging time.”
Freeman said in the meantime, the DACC will be managing costs while remaining focused on providing “the outstanding education our students deserve.”
“From an instructional standpoint my goal is to be able to continue to provide the quality education that we have done in the past,” Freeman said. “We are looking at any non-instructional cuts that’s first and foremost and our team will continue to evaluate other potential costs saving measures. The last place I will cut is anything that impacts the quality of education.”
Freeman said the lack of funds has forced the DACC to put a temporary hold on the ongoing consolidation project.
“Given the unpredictability of the current situation we’re in, we are suspending our construction activity on the consolidated campus,” Freeman said Monday. Freeman explained that the roof, floor and sides of the building will be completed to make the expansion secure; but no work will occur after that until a levy is passed.
Freeman said the consolidation was green-lit in 2016 after the DACC determined it was more financially sound to consolidate the two campuses at the current South Campus instead of continuing to improve and maintain two buildings.
The $45 million consolidation was paid for using money that was put aside from the permanent improvements budget over a number of years, and not part of a bond issue Freeman said.
“As ballot language indicated, 0.4 mil [of the renewal levy] was slated for permanent improvement funds, including ‘improving, renovating, remodeling, enlarging, furnishing, and equipping school buildings and facilities.’” Freeman said. “The additional 1.3 mil was slated for operating costs.”
Freeman said November is the soonest the DACC can have the re-do of the levy on the ballot, meaning the school could not begin collecting the tax dollars until January 2018.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.