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Community Group Weighs Possible Levy For Columbus City Schools

Columbus City Schools District Office.
Nick Evans
Columbus City Schools District Office.

The Columbus Board of Education is empowering a community committee to decide whether to put a levy or bond issue on the November ballot.

That millage committee holds its first meeting Thursday night from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Columbus Downtown High School.

“This time around, what we want to do is ensure that we are really asking and letting the public know exactly what that money is going to be used for," says Columbus School Board president Jennifer Adair. "And that’s the purpose of the millage committee."

The committee comprises of parents, community members and business leaders, who will discuss whether a need exists for new funding to pay for school building repairs, expanding school programs or teacher salaries.

They will also decide how much to request, and whether it will be a levy request or a bond issue.

Adair says public schools in Ohio are reliant upon voters’ support for funding on a regular cycle.

“We definitely need something that will help us move forward,” Adair says. “We have great plans that the superintendent is working on. We’re very excited about those things.”

Four years ago, voters overwhelmingly approved the last property-tax levy for Columbus City Schools, with 62% in favor. That costs homeowners $242 per $100,000 of home value.

“I don’t know if it’s going to be a number like that because obviously we’ve had inflation and property taxes have gone up over those four years,” Adair says.

Researching the necessity for another levy also raises concerns about tax abatements, which takes money away from local schools.

Recently, the Columbus School Board approved a 15-year, 100% tax abatement for a gene therapy center planned by Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The for-profit Andelyn Biosciences is set to construct a facility on Ohio State University’s West Innovation Campus. 

Columbus City Council members gave the final sign-off for the incentives.

“We’re glad that the city has given us some voice in the matter,” Adair says. “And we hope that when we work with them and we work with developers, they are the type of businesses that have our kids first and will bring development and bring jobs and bring all those things that can support our families and our community.”

Adair says if the millage committee decides November is not the time for a new levy, the school board would discuss its options.

“While we really hope that’s not the case, but we will obviously regroup and we will try again,” she says.

The millage committee will hold three more meetings on March 16, April 6 and April 20.

Debbie Holmes has worked at WOSU News since 2009. She has hosted All Things Considered, since May 2021. Prior to that she was the host of Morning Edition and a reporter.