OSBA’s legal assistance fund (LAF) supports school districts that are defending legal challenges with the potential to affect public schools statewide. Earlier this month, the LAF board of trustees voted to approve an amicus brief in support of the Delaware Area Career Center (DACC) in the case Delaware Joint Vocational School District v. Testa.

The case involves a Renewal Levy passed in November 2015 by DACC. Ninety-nine percent of DACC’s territory is in Delaware County, while less than 1% falls in Franklin, Marion, Morrow and Union Counties combined (DACC Territory). Like DACC, there are approximately 250 school districts in Ohio with boundaries in multiple counties. The Renewal Levy, which passed by more than 10,000 votes, would have resulted in $7.1 million/year of revenue for 10 years, starting with collection in 2017 for 2016 taxes. Although DACC took all appropriate steps to renew its levy, it was recently notified by the Delaware County Board of Elections (DCBOE) that DCBOE erroneously failed to place the Renewal Levy on the ballots in Franklin, Marion, Morrow and Union Counties. Even if all 1,026 registered voters in the DACC territory in these counties had voted against the levy, it still would have passed by a large margin (9,618 votes).

As a result of DCBOE’s failure to include the Renewal Levy on the other counties’ ballots, the Tax Commissioner is refusing to certify and levy the tax from the Renewal Levy. Since DCBOE’s certification of election results passing the Renewal Levy, DACC has acted in reliance on the $7.1 million/year revenue, including engaging in an ongoing construction project. DACC filed a complaint for writ of mandamus on January 17, 2017, requesting that the court order immediate approval of tax collections in DACC territory, or at least in Delaware County, and also requesting that the court order that all necessary and appropriate actions be taken to secure a mid-year tax bill correction.

A joint amicus brief filed on January 26th on behalf of OSBA, the Buckeye Association of School Administrators (BASA) and the Ohio Association of School Business Officials (OASBO), argues that “Permitting an attack on election results due to an election process irregularity that (a) was raised by Respondent outside of established statutory process, (b) was raised significantly after the conclusion of the statutory contest period, and (c) could not have altered the result of the election and thus did not affect the will of the electorate, is contrary to Ohio law and would crack the foundation of our current school funding system.” You can view the amicus brief here, and keep up with the case by searching Case No. 2017-079 on the Supreme Court of Ohio’s Case Docket. OSBA will continue to provide updates as the case progresses.

If you have questions about this case or you’d like to discuss potential assistance that LAF could provide to your district, please contact OSBA’s division of legal services. More information about the LAF and an application to join or request assistance is available here

Posted by Megan Greulich on 1/27/2017