On March 4, Canal Winchester school district voters will decide on an 8.9-mill continuing operating levy.
In December, the Canal Winchester Board of Education approved the levy amount, which, if passed, would generate $3.7 million in additional funds for the cash-strapped district.
The annual additional cost per $100,000 of property valuation is $273. The property value used to calculate taxes is the appraised value determined by the county auditor’s office and is the amount listed on the tax statement for each individually-owned property.
"From a teacher’s standpoint, I will support the levy," said retired teacher Jeannette Schneider. "I would like for it to pass, but if it doesn’t, it won’t be because of the senior citizens, as many people think. People tend to blame senior citizens for levy failures, but it’s the people who have over extended themselves. I think the state needs to do more for schools. They’re in a tough situation, too, but it’s not right for schools to have to depend on property tax. Maybe they need to look into an income tax. Time can be better spent on educating children rather than having to worry about funding."
The axe is already falling. Bus routes were consolidated, plans are in place to cut positions, restrict purchases, eliminate trips and professional development opportunities, and increase fees. A million dollars was previously cut from the 2007-08 budget, with $639,000 more since Superintendent Kimberly Miller-Smith was hired, but more than $500,000 still needs to be slashed in order to keep the district solvent and out of fiscal caution.
If approved by voters, collection of the 8.9 mill levy would not begin until January 2009. Permanent and temporary cuts are underway in order to meet a state mandate to balance the budget. While the levy would help stem the tide of red ink and keep the district in the black, Treasurer Joyce Boyer said it would take a double-digit levy to fully restore the district.
Canal Winchester Village Council plans to issue a formal resolution of support for the levy at its Feb. 18 meeting.
"The village council, by consensus, decided to once again express our support for the Canal Winchester School District levy," said Councilman Bruce Jarvis. "It’s important for us to show that we support the community in all facets and our partnership with the school district goes back many years."
The state is watching
On Dec. 4, the district received a letter from the Ohio Department of Education noting Canal Winchester’s five-year forecast indicated a negative fund balance exceeding projected revenue starting in Fiscal Year 2009. As required by the Ohio Revised Code, the department said the district was required to submit a proposal avoiding the deficit to a School Finance Area Office by Feb. 8.
The proposal includes Canal Winchester’s general strategy for avoiding the deficit and a list of all viable options the board is considering in order to increase revenue and/or reduce expenditures.
Assistant Department of Education Director Roger Hardin warned the district that, under current fiscal caution guidelines, the district could be placed in fiscal caution if it fails to submit an acceptable proposal.
A 4.9 mill operating levy was defeated at the polls last year and a 7.9 mill levy was turned down by voters in November.
If the levy fails
Miller-Smith previously said the district will not have a choice but to eliminate high school busing in 2008-09. Even if the levy passes in March, the consolidated bus stop plan will remain in place.
The list of cuts and changes includes: doubling pay-to-participate fees to $140, slashing supply and equipment accounts by 20 percent, cutting field trips at the beginning of the year, elimination of professional development training for teachers except for opportunities funded by grants, and a reduction in projected certified and classified positions and textbook purchases.