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Columbus voters approve $1.5 billion bond package, pass several charter amendments

Infrastructure and school issues were successful on Election Day in Central Ohio. According to unofficial results, Columbus voters overwhelmingly approved a raft of bond issues to raise $1.5 billion for safety and infrastructure, parks and recreation, and affordable housing as the region braces for continued growth.

The $200 million dollar bond issue for housing will address a shortage of affordable homes that has become more stark in recent years. During the long campaign for the bond, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther pointed to the success of a 2019 $50 million bond package. That investment leveraged another $276 million in public and private sector support and created more than 1,300 housing units for low-income individuals and families. Ginther and other city leaders have stressed the need to work regionally, creating partnerships with other municipalities to extend the reach of the bond. The goal is a $1 billion investment in 15 years.

By a nearly 2-to-1 margin, voters also approved a $300 million bond for health, safety and infrastructure projects, a $200 million bond for parks and recreation, a $250 million public service bond, and a $550 million bond the city's electric system and storm and sanitary sewer lines. The bond issues do not raise taxes, and are repaid with money the city sets aside from income tax collections.

Columbus voters overwhelmingly approved two charter amendments. One discards a 1914 amendment that required applicants for city jobs be grouped by their scores on exams, although officials say scores would still be considered in the hiring process. The other amendment would allow officials to attend and vote at meetings held electronically, an emergency measure that was approved during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Voters also approved a charter review recommendation that would close a loophole that would allow ballot petitioners to redirect taxpayer money with no oversight. A proposal on the ballot last year claimed it would fund clean energy efforts and subsidize electric rates, but provide no transparency on how taxpayer money would be spent. Issue 19 creates a two-step voter approval process, and mandates that ballot sponsors register who benefits financially.

Columbus City Schools had planned to go to the voters with a levy request this fall, but pulled the ballot issue in August, but several other Central Ohio school district were on the ballot Tuesday.

Pickerington voters approved a $83.9 million bond issue to build a new junior high school and renovate two high schools and another junior high school, to keep up with population growth.

Worthington voters approved a combined bond issue and levy to fund renovations and expansion, as well as ongoing infrastructure needs for maintenance and school buses.

In Upper Arlington, a 6.9 mil levy passed with 54% of the vote. The money will fund ongoing operating expenses like technology, transportation and teacher salaries, and give the district a greater cushion in budget reserves.

A native of Chicago, naturalized citizen of Cincinnati and resident of Columbus, Alison attended Earlham College and the Ohio State University. She has equal passion for Midwest history, hockey and Slavic poetry.