Cuts loom if Pickerington school levy fails

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If voters do not approve the 7.9 mill continuing levy for Pickerington schools, the district will cut staff including teachers and administrators, Superintendent Dr. Karen Mantia told the Pickerington Board of Education at their Jan. 28 meeting.

"(The layoffs are) not a threat. These are the realities that will come if we don’t pass the renewal. That is the bottom line four us," Mantia said.

Originally approved in 2003, the levy provides the district with $7.15 million per year. The amount comprises eight percent of the general fund used to pay for "the four T’s" – teachers, textbooks, technology, and transportation.

If not renewed, the levy will expire in December 2008.

"No school district can afford a loss of eight percent," Mantia said. "We would look carefully at deep cuts."

Teachers, staff and administrators could be cut, classroom sizes increased, fewer extracurricular activities could be offered and longer bus rides could result due to fewer routes.

Treasurer Vince Utterback said that, in addition to financial issues arising if the levy does not pass, economic factors might affect the district’s funds. Budget issues facing the state of Ohio may impact Pickerington. The school district receives 50 percent of its revenue from the state.

The March 4 election will also be a presidential primary.

"You can vote on Issue 9 (the levy) even if you do not want to vote in the primary.  You can ask for an ‘issues only’ ballot and vote without indicating your party," Mantia said. "It’s for our kids. Get out and vote."

Homeowners would not pay additional taxes if the levy passes.

In addition, if the levy passes, the district will enter a "contract with the community" to maintain educational quality while remaining off the ballot for "as long as possible".

"We will continue, as we always have been, to tighten our belt," Mantia said.

School board member Lori Sanders said she wanted "to put to rest" a misconception many people have regarding school taxes.  The board receives multiple complaints every time they place an issue on the ballot from people who believe they pay more than residents who live elsewhere in the district.

Every homeowner in the district pays the same tax rate for the schools whether they live in a city or a township, Sanders said.

Mantia said if anyone has any questions, they may call her or the treasurer at (614) 833-2110.

"Mr. Utterback and myself are always available," Mantia said. "We stand ready to entertain questions or to talk details about any issue."

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