When the night was over, harsh reality set in for Canal Winchester Local Schools as another operating levy went down in defeat; the fourth in two years.
"Whether it is perception or reality, people feel they’re worse off economically than they were before," said school board member David Brobst in discussing reasons for the multiple levy failures. "I wasn’t shocked it failed. There are a lot of factors and school funding continues to be a confusing issue. We’re just going to have to deal with what we’ve got. At the end of the day, the state says you have to balance the budget. The only option we have is how to make decisions on staying in the black. I was very pleased with the way the levy was run this time. It was the parents and the community that stepped up and asked us to go back to the ballot."
However, Brobst said, considering the state of the economy, he doesn’t anticipate the opportunity to run another levy request in 2009.
Although the gap between yes and no votes narrowed following each previous election, the message from voters this time was clear-with unofficial combined results in Franklin and Fairfield counties showing 4,005 against the 8.9 mill and 3,676 for the levy-no new revenue for the cash-strapped district.
A 4.9 mill operating levy was turned down by voters at the polls in 2006, followed by the defeat of a 7.9 mill levy in November 2007 and an 8.9 mill levy in March of this year. In addition, the district was recently notified that planning for Ohio tax receipts for the upcoming year should reflect a zero or less increase, resulting in more than $1 million less in revenue for the upcoming fiscal year.
"We’re now anticipating $1.5 million at the end of fiscal year ’09," Treasurer Joyce Boyer previously reported. "We’re down $1.2 million because of a decreasing number of students and decreasing property tax. We anticipated adding 194 students, but we’re only up 11 from last year, which is a substantial difference. We know people have moved out of the district, while others are now going to the new community school. We anticipate enrollment will be up next year, but we also have to look at income tax revenue and continue to carefully re-evaluate any expenditures."
In spring, total revenue for 2009 was projected at $30.4 million, but was revised down to $28.9 million in October. The cost for expenditures was estimated in May to be $30.7 and upped to $31.4 million five months later.
If the levy was approved by voters, the board of education considered a list of programs and services that could be reinstated during the present school year including: high school busing with central bus stops followed by a restoration of full high school busing for the following school year, text book purchases, select field trips, middle school alternative education placement, an increase in building supply accounts, and a reduction in pay-to-play fees.
With the levy going down in defeat, many measures administrators and board members hoped to be temporary will now be a permanent way of life for students and staff.