Earlier this week, the Ohio Auditor of State (AOS) released an FAQ document on levy activity by public officials and employees. The document has both best practices recommendations and frequently asked questions (FAQs) about levy and bond issue campaigns. It is intended to provide guidance to Ohio school districts, school administrators and officials on what AOS considers to be permitted and not permitted under Ohio Revised Code (RC) 9.03. While the FAQs primarily discuss school levies and bond issues, its guidelines apply to other political subdivisions as well.

The FAQs cover topics such as the use of district websites, email and other communications; information sharing; levy committees; the roles of employees and officials; signs, shirts and facilities; student and staff involvement; and surveys. In an addendum, AOS has presented some sample survey questions and identified which are permissible and which are impermissible.  

In a statement accompanying the release of the FAQs, the AOS stated:

These FAQs are purposefully crafted to lay out a conservative approach. Activity described as permissible, absent unique and unforeseen circumstances, is considered by AOS to be allowed under current legal standards; whereas some activities are considered unacceptable and must be avoided – leaving a wide range of activity in-between where caution is advised.

The AOS cautions that its FAQs are not legal advice and encourages school board members and district employees to obtain legal advice regarding specific levy activities and campaigns.

If you have questions or concerns about the FAQs, AOS recommends that statewide school district and local government associations, such as OSBA, should be your first point of contact, along with your legal counsel. AOS will continue working directly with the associations to aggregate questions and concerns related to the FAQs. It will also maintain and monitor a single email address for inquiries: AOSlevyfaqs@ohioauditor.gov.

At noon on Monday, Aug. 28, OSBA and the Ohio Association of School Business Officials (OASBO) will be hosting a webinar on the FAQs. It will provide an overview of the document and how it affects the roles of board members, superintendents, and treasurers when their districts are conducting bond issue and levy campaigns. Registration for the webinar is available here. We hope you can join us then.

Posted by Jennifer A. Hardin on 8/26/2023