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The History of Westerville Schools ~ League of Women Voters of Westerville Study, 1992
WCS: What's in a Name? ~ Is the name inaccurate?  Should it be changed?

Jeff Rich on Win-Win 

Nobody wants to move their business to Afghanistan or Bosnia, one of my friends said the other night at dinner.  People do not move to war zones. 


As we discussed reconstruction of those nations, I realized his observations and the Win/Win Agreement had something in common.  Allow me to explain.


From the beginning of Ohios history 200 years ago until 1955, school board boundary changes were automatic as municipal boundaries expanded.  However, in 1955 the legislature changed the law and required that all annexations of school districts be approved by the State Board of Education. 


Columbus grew five-fold in square miles over the last half of the century.    The policy leading to this growth was brilliant.  Water for a new development was only available if the land was annexed into the city of Columbus.  In this fashion, Columbus avoided the disastrous consequences that Cleveland and Cuyahoga County suffered by having many competing municipalities.  However, the Columbus Board of Education seldom sought annexation at the State Board of Education as the city expanded its borders.


            Though this was good for the City of Columbus, it was confusing for individuals and businesses who found themselves in territories that were within the boundaries of the City of Columbus, but in one of the suburban school districts. 


            In the early 1980s this confusion led to controversy.  News articles and public statements seemed to suggest that the Columbus Board of Education may seek to annex already established and developed territory, especially commercial land, which was in suburban school districts.


            Remember when I told you about my friend saying that people do not move to war zones?  Well that is exactly what the Ohio General Assembly believed could happen if schools went to war with one another in central Ohio over boundary changes.  Thus, the legislature passed several moratoriums on annexations while the Columbus Board of Education and the suburban school districts negotiated what became in May of 1986, the first Win/.Win Agreement.


            It was called Win/Win because both sides could say that they had won something from these negotiations and indeed they had.  All property that was, as of May 1986, in the City of Columbus but in a suburban school district, would remain in that district.  Any newly annexed territory to the City of Columbus thereafter would automatically go into the Columbus School District.  In return, the suburban school districts would compensate the Columbus School District for a modest portion of the tax revenue the suburban districts received on all new improvements built thereafter, but only in that Win/Win territory.


            The formula is based on payments of 1% of the non-inflationary growth since May, 1986 in the value of real property, public utility, personal property and tangible personal property located in the City of Columbus but in the suburban school district.  Thus, it is only the actual growth in value of new improvements which come under the formula for revenue sharing between the suburban districts and the Columbus Public Schools.


            In 1992, when the Agreement came up for renewal, it was modified as a result of a number of inconsistencies between State law and the original agreement.  However, the basic formula stayed the same.  Minimums and caps were put on the amounts of payments that school districts would be responsible for under the agreement.  So, for example, this year the Westerville City Schools will pay the maximum amount of the cap, which is $900,000 to the Columbus School District.  Westerville, as a result, will retain 95.6% of all of the property tax revenue from the Win/Win territory.  The total property taxes received by Westerville from that territory this year is $20,336,140.  Even after the $900,000 payment, the Westerville City Schools retained $19,436,140.  A similar situation occurs in each of the other suburban districts.  For example, the Dublin schools get to keep 97.3% of all the revenue in its property located in the City of Columbus, almost $32,700,000.


            Finally, you may have heard some ill-informed people say, Why dont we give back that property and all those students to the Columbus School District?  I say ill-informed because those students have always been in the suburban school district.  This so called Win/Win land was never a part of the Columbus Board of Education.  The boundaries of our political subdivisions overlap one another, whether they are city, county, school districts, sewer districts, library districts, etc.  Someone may live in the City of Columbus, but be in Delaware County and the Olentangy Local Schools.  So we live in numerous overlapping political subdivisions. 


            Thus, a school boundary war in Central Ohio clearly would have led to the kind of instability that could have stopped growth in our community.  As my friend said, people dont move to war zones.  If war broke out in Columbus, which is the only Midwestern city that has grown consistently over the last 50 years, it could end that growth.  Thus, the parties entered into the Win/Win Agreement in order to give stability to communities, predictability to the tax base and provide for revenue sharing between the suburban districts and the Columbus Board of Education.  As a result, war was avoided.




Jeffrey A. Rich is the Managing Partner of the law firm of Rich, Crites & Wesp, LLC.  He has for over 25 years represented in various capacities all of the school systems involved in the Win/Win Agreement and has also been involved in its implementation and interpretation.

Westerville Voters On Target for Education