LEWIS CENTER — In need of additional funding, Tuesday’s primary election brought good news to the Olentangy Local School District (OLSD) as its three-pronged ballot issue was approved by residents, albeit unofficially, by a comfortable margin.
More than 21,000 residents cast votes on the OLSD ballot issue, which included an operating levy of 7.4 mills, a permanent improvement levy of 0.5 mills, and a 30-year, $134.7 million bond issue. Of the votes cast, 57.7% — or 12,318 ballots — were in favor of the measure, while 9,031 ballots (42.3%) were cast against the issue.
While the margin of votes suggests the ballot issue has succeeded, there remains a deadline of May 8 for any absentee ballots that were mailed and postmarked by the April 27 deadline to arrive at the Delaware County Board of Elections office. The county will hold its official canvas May 19.
The operating levy will pay for the district’s every-day expenses such as teachers’ salaries, utilities, and classroom supplies, and the permanent improvement levy will fund improvements to existing facilities.
To address the district’s need for additional space, the bond will allow for the construction of two new elementary schools and one middle school. Adding classrooms has become imperative for OLSD as it continues to see much growth within the Olentangy communities, forcing the district to consider less-than-ideal alternatives had the levy failed.
“I am proud of our community for recognizing that strong schools are essential to our collective well-being,” OLSD Superintendent Mark Raiff said following the election. “The One Olentangy spirit demonstrated by the community’s support is wonderful. Together we are paving the way for a successful future where our students and community continue to flourish.”
OLSD Board of Education member Julie Feasel added, “This means that we can continue to provide excellent education and all the opportunities that come with it for our students.”
Feasel added she felt the community had a good understanding that the quality of schooling the district provides will continue to be a good use of their tax dollars, especially with the lack of funding coming from the state.
“I think the community understands the value that this school district provides,” she said. “Throughout the campaign, we talked about the high academic standards and the low cost per pupil, which means a great return on investment for our taxpayers. I really think our residents understood that we’re not getting the money we should be getting from the state, and it’s up to them, the taxpayers, to continue to provide that education to our students.”
Feasel went on to say that while she is unsure just how many residents voted after the election was extended from its original date of May 17, she believes many residents were able to see just how big an asset the school district is to their community as the COVID-19 outbreak forced school buildings to shut down and move to alternative means for continued schooling.
“When the kids were at home, and now we’re doing distance learning, now (voters) really understand what the school district means,” Feasel said. “I’m sure we had people who understood that return on their investment, they could look and see it, but now they are feeling it (during quarantine). I just have to applaud our staff members — they’re doing videos with their kiddos, they’re making copies for people who don’t have computer access, they’re calling students and checking in with them. Learning is still going on and will still go on through May 14. I can’t say enough about the staff and how they’ve stepped up.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.