Reprinted courtesy of the Westerville News &
ęCopyright Suburban News Publications, Columbus, Ohio, 2003
Originally published October 22, 2003
are dire: 'Yes' to Issue 16
Westerville school district voters face a clear choice on Election Day: Support
their local schools or watch them sink to become one of the worst public school systems in Central Ohio,
pulling down the community and its property values with it. It's that simple.
Some things in life you can't afford not to do. When the roof of your home is so bad that leaks threaten to destroy the
interior, you need a new roof.
When your community's public school system is on the brink of crisis, you need to cast a "yes" vote for the local school
Such is the case for the Westerville City School
District's Issue 16, a three-year, 7.5-mill operating levy on the Nov. 4 ballot. Passage of the
issue will cost homeowners an annual property tax increase of $230 per $100,000 of home valuation.
Failure of the issue would cost the community a whole lot more, the News & Public Opinion strongly believes.
The opening of three new schools during the last two years, and the redrawing of school attendance areas as part of that
process, left many parents of students in the district unhappy with the administration and the Westerville Board of Education.
The school board's focus on buildings, redistricting and a redesign of high school curriculum occupied much of its energy.
It certainly drew its attention away from communicating with residents on the precarious state of school funding in Westerville.
Property reappraisals and several non-school taxes passed during 2001 and 2002 -- for a county mental health agency, Senior
Options, the Westerville Division of Fire and Westerville Public Library -- left residents with sticker shock at their tax
bills in January and June.
The cumulative result of unpopular school board action, rising tax bills and poor communication from the school district
was predictable: Disaffection for the schools, a failed school levy in May and organized opposition to the levy on November's
Lost in the mix along the way are some important facts. Westerville schools
still are managing to do a good job educating the community's children, at a bargain price by any comparison. Good schools
remain a reason for people to move to Westerville, and a principal reason property
values are increasing in the community. That all could change dramatically if Issue 16 fails.
Westerville now ranks 12th of 16 school districts in Franklin
County in per-pupil spending -- behind Whitehall,
Gahanna, Groveport and Hilliard, as well as all of the top-performing districts.
Wild claims from levy opponents of outlandish spending practices are simply wrong.
Of all of the various bones to pick with the schools the last couple of years, the overspending bone is one that plainly
does not bear any flesh.
When the district's 8-mill levy failed in May, $5.7 million in budget cuts were enacted and a scaled-back version of the
levy was crafted. Twenty-two teaching positions were cut, eight administrative-supervisory positions were cut, administrator
salaries were frozen, class sizes went up and pay-to-play fees were started.
If Issue 16 fails Nov. 4, another $8.6 million will have to be slashed from the budget. Class sizes for grades 3-12 will
go to 30 students; 98 teaching, administrative and classified jobs will be cut; distances between bus stops will be increased
to at least one-half mile apart; and pay-to-play fees could quadruple.
One of the most devastating cuts would reduce the high school day to five periods, necessitating a reduction of the credits
needed to graduate to a state-minimum 20. Almost all electives would be dropped, as students would have to earn full credits
for each period of the reduced day to graduate in four years.
These are changes that would, without question, reduce the Westerville City
School District to a third-class school system in Central Ohio.
The community's attractiveness would drop precipitously. Property values would follow.
Misdirected anger at the school board will not change that. Misinformation about district spending practices cannot refute
The Westerville News & Public Opinion strongly urges residents to vote "yes" on Issue 16. Simply put, you can't afford
Read more Central Ohio community news at www.SNPonline.com