Election Day brought sad news to the Canal Winchester Board of Education when results showed the district’s 7.9-mill operating levy failed at the polls.
Unofficial numbers from the Franklin County Board of Elections found 2,009 voting for the levy and 2,256 voting against it. In Fairfield County the count was 463 for and 684 against. Had the levy passed, additional revenue was projected to keep the district in the black, under the current projections, until 2010-11.
"It was a close race and I think we got out message out," said David Brobst, who was re-elected to his school board seat, along with John Kantner, "and we got an answer back from the residents. It’s the voters’ decision and we need to do what we can to keep them informed and to follow through with what we have."
Although projections show Canal Winchester ending the present school year with a positive balance, without additional revenue, the district could end the 2008-09 school year with a deficit of over $3 million, dive further into the red the following year, and conclude the 2010-11 with a potential $14 million shortfall.
Following the defeat of a 4.9-mill operating levy last year, Brobst and fellow board member Stan Smith emphasized the district would need a much larger levy in order to generate a similar cash flow. Brobst said the board kept its word in returning to the voters with the 3-mill increase.
Board members unanimously approved a list of proposed reductions in staffing and busing and fee increases during their Sept. 17 meeting in order to ensure the district remains solvent if the operating levy failed.
"We have had preliminary discussions about what reductions we may be able to put into place this year to save as many dollars we can to offset costs for next year," continued Brobst. "As for going back to the voters, I don’t know how we would have a choice not to give them another opportunity, but we need to discuss that further."
Recommended reductions include: eliminating high school busing; 10 projected teaching positions; the gifted department and three employees; 12 assistant varsity coaching positions; In-School Suspension at the high school and middle school; 10 classified aide positions, five-and-a-half projected classified positions, and six classified staff positions. Proposed changes also include increasing class size, doubling pay-to-play fees, reducing supplemental contracts, and cutting textbook adoption in half.
According to the district, the looming deficit is based on projections and as the actual year-end balance is determined, there may be changes-increases or decreases-in the total budgeted dollar amount. However, if the deficit is not as large as anticipated, present certified and classified staff would be the first areas not reduced.
Generating $3.2 million a year, the extra millage would have cost the owner of a $100,000 an additional $241.94 in taxes. According to Treasurer Joyce Boyer, homeowners now pay, on average, $726.73 in general operating taxes to the school district.
Although other issues were renewed, the district has not received new voted millage for five years and expenses have increased proportionately with growth, which totaled approximately 24 percent for the same time period.