If you’re the type of gambler who enjoys a long shot, the 2013 Columbus City Schools levy might just be the bet for you. On Nov. 4 voters will be presented with a 9.01 mill levy, effectively adding just over 300 bucks of taxes per year for every $100,000 worth of home a resident owns. It will generate half a billion dollars over five years, most of which will go to general operations, teacher training, the renovation of ten schools, adding access to tech and proving Pre-K for more of the city. All of which sounds fine and dandy. The issue is that one mill of the levy will go towards (cue the gasps) charters schools. That means that for the first time ever a $42 million chunk of the taxpayer pot will be accessible through a partnership between CCS and qualifying charters. Making matters worse for the district is the levy is all or nothing. House Bill 167 required going to the ballot with recommendations from Mayor Coleman’s Columbus Education Commission. Efforts to split the levy into multiple ballot issues failed, meaning the ballot issue will sink or swim with charter schools. Toss in CCS’s, um, credibility issues over the past few years and you have the potential for a very tough sell Generally speaking, the district comes to the voters with hat in hand every four years. In 2008 voters passed a 7.85 operating levy and 1.13 bond issue by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. It was a win for CCS that came on the same day a handful of the city’s suburban districts said no to new revenue. And, all things being equal, the district would have liked to return to the ballot last November to coincide with the increase in turnout for the general election. But as those familiar with the attendance scandal are keenly aware, all things were most certainly not equal last year. So, in early July of 2012, the board voted to hold off for a year. Additional time for engagement with the community was cited publicly by then-Superintendent Gene Harris. But behind the scenes there was concern expressed by some CEC members that the voters weren’t quite ready to trust their school district. Which brings us to the lead-up to this November. Board of Education member Mike Wiles (the loser in a 6-1 levy vote in July) says he thinks if the vote was held right now it would go down to defeat by a 3-to-1 margin. “I’m not sure what they’re going to come out with,” he said of the levy campaign that began two weeks ago with TV ads. “But with the info we have currently (it wouldn’t pass).” With that in mind, the key word for Gary Baker when it comes to voters seems to be education. Baker, a member of the BOE who also happens to be part of the campaign committee, stressed that only certain charters will be eligible to share in the revenue. “A new set of standards will be developed for community schools,” Baker said. “Only nonprofit schools that meet those standards will have the option to be part of the partnership. It’s not going to be a free-for-all.” Baker admitted that charter schools will likely be the toughest part of the committee’s goal to “educate” voters. “It’s the biggest concern I’ve heard,” he said. Thus far it hasn’t been made clear what exactly constitutes a “nonprofit” charter school, given that companies which manage them are often for-profit. And it’s probably going to be a challenge to convince voters that a somewhat complex marriage of various government and private entities is the best way to serve students. “I need more guarantees about who is going to be controlling the money,” said Wiles. Wiles, for one, isn’t moved by references to non-profit charter schools or the levy campaign talking about standards which will be set for the charter schools: “It’s like ‘give us the money and then we’ll decide how to spend it,’” he said. The trick for the levy campaign will be getting voters to trust both the Columbus schools and that getting in bed with charter schools is a good use of public money. So far Wiles has a good sense of the betting favorite. “People are still telling me they’re not voting for it. They don’t care what the campaign is - as long the charter piece is in there they’re totally against it.” Shuffle up and deal.