Cuts loom for CW

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Fewer school buses could travel roadways throughout Canal Winchester and more students might walk to school if cuts made by the Canal Winchester Board of Education in addressing a looming $3.5 million shortfall become reality.

Plus voters can expect to see another operating levy in March.

Cuts

The board held a work session on Nov. 15 and discussed immediate measures taken by Superintendent Kimberley Miller-Smith saving over $200,000 following the defeat of a 7.9 mill operating levy on Nov. 6. Voters also turned down a similar 4.9 mill request in 2006. Cuts were also discussed during the board’s Nov. 19 meeting.

"We’re now working to eliminate another $3.5 million," Miller-Smith said. "If we don’t make any cuts now, we would have to ask for 16 mills the next time to balance the deficit. By making cuts now, we should be able to ask for a more acceptable millage."

According to Miller-Smith, supply and equipment purchases are now subject to emergency-basis criteria, all field trips are eliminated as of Jan. 1, performance/competition groups (aside from athletic teams) must find their own transportation, and all out-of-district professional development is cut (except those covered by grant funding). She said all non-performance/competitive field trip requests-even if paid for by an outside source-will be denied in order to maintain consistency for all students.

Discussion then turned to the possibility of cutting bus service for high school students and all others inside a two mile radius, and consolidating bus stops. If bus routes were cut, 10 driver positions would be eliminated.

"It troubles me," said resident Steve Bishop during a Nov. 19 public input session. "Every option that doesn’t directly impact a student should be looked at first. Before we go cutting this service, (realize) it can get pretty dangerous."

Miller-Smith said the district still needs time to figure out consolidating stops and changes in bus service, which are reasons why she proposed any cuts or consolidations take place in February.

"Cuts we make in transportation are cuts we want to make for the next three years to give us some stability in our budget. Transportation services provided to Canal Winchester students will look much more different than it does now," said Miller-Smith. "As we look at transportation costs, these aren’t easy decisions to make, and we’re going to be uncomfortable with these cuts, but we have to meet state standards. We will go back and look at visibility, traffic, the character of the bus stop, and weather."

Although the district is still responsible for transporting career and technical students to career centers, Miller-Smith said if Canal Winchester eliminates busing, they are no longer required to provide private school busing.


New middle school opening delayed?

"I’m really struggling with delaying the opening of the new middle school," Miller-Smith said on Nov. 15, as she discussed the possibility of temporarily mothballing the building. "There is preventative maintenance we would have to do in the new building. The biggest problem with a delay is our warranty period keeps ticking away. There were concerns about plumbing issues, particularly in the kitchen."

Miller-Smith commented she was very worried about not making the move to the new school because of the warranty and not occupying the building. She said if the district does not move in and warranties start to run out, they could have a very large expense if something is wrong because they would be obligated to pay for repairs.

"The clock starts ticking when we take possession of the building, whether we occupy it or not," board member David Brobst pointed out.

During the Nov. 19 meeting, Miller-Smith recommended the district proceed with plans to occupy the new middle school building this year. She said there are local groups interested in leasing space in the old building once classes are moved to the new complex, which could help offset costs.

Back on the ballot

Board member Stan Smith noted, as the board moves forward in making decisions on budget cuts; it still needs to consider returning to the ballot with an operating levy.

Even if a March levy is approved by voters, collection would not begin until January 2009 and Smith said the district would still need to make cuts-long-term and short-term-to address shortfalls.

"It is not our intention to punish anyone," emphasized Miller-Smith, before suggesting the board begin discussions on a potential 9.9-mill levy for March. "Ohio law requires us to balance our budget and we will end this year with a positive balance, but we have to pass a new operating levy in 2008. If we don’t make moves to reduce the deficit, we will have to ask for even more millage from voters.

Miller-Smith said the district can only afford so much and even though it will end the year in the black, Canal Winchester won’t have any new money for next year and even if an operating levy passes in the spring, the district wouldn’t start receiving new revenue until 2009.

"The bottom line is, if we don’t pass an operating levy, we’ll go into 2008-09 with $3.5 million in cuts," continued Smith. "With a levy, we still go into 2008-09 with $1.2 million in cuts and the only way not to leave that many cuts in place is to pass a higher millage. I think we need to find the $1.2 million in cuts we can live with for three years and then get back with additional cuts (as necessary)."

Brobst said the significant thing to remember when placing another operating levy on the ballot is it took a 7.9-mill levy in 2007 to accomplish what 4.9-mill would have done the year before and emphasized the district could face a double-digit levy request in 2008.

The board will hold a special meeting on Dec. 8 at 9 a.m., to discuss plans to return to voters with an operating levy request and continue deliberations on budget cuts.

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