Canal Winchester school district voters face a 7.9 mill levy designed to keep the district operating in the plus column for the next four years when they go to the polls next month.
A growing student population, changes in utility deregulation and tangible personal property tax collections, along with the loss of a 4.9 mill levy in 2006, were factors cited in pushing the district back to the ballot on Nov. 6.
Generating $3.2 million a year, the extra millage would 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. Boyer said the needs of the district are on-going and even if there are changes by the state, there will still be needs as growth continues. This is why the Canal Winchester Board of Education decided to go with a continuing levy instead of a four-year emergency levy.
If the operating levy passes, the district would not begin collecting it until January 2008. Boyer said approval of the levy would keep the district in the black, under the current projections, until 2010-11.
"We haven’t received new voted millage for five years," said Superintendent Kim Miller-Smith. "There have been other pieces renewed, but we haven’t had new funding and our expenses have increased proportionately with the growth in population. In addition, state funding has decreased. Our student population has grown 24 percent in the last five years and with growth you have to hire more teachers, more bus drivers, purchase more buses and so on. If you looked at it in terms of a household, it would be like flat lining income for five years but still having increases in expenses. We haven’t had a raise in five years."
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 the operating levy last year, board members David Brobst and Stan Smith emphasized they 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.
In order to ensure Canal Winchester schools remains solvent if the ballot issue does not pass, board members unanimously approved a list of proposed reductions in staffing and busing and fee increases during their Sept. 17 meeting.
According to the district, the potential deficit is based on projections and as the actual year-end balance is determined, there may be changes-increases or decreases-in the total dollar amount that would need to be reduced from the budget.
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; increasing class size; double pay-to-play fees; reduce supplemental contracts; cut 10 classified aide positions, five-and-a-half projected classified positions, and six classified staff positions; and cut textbook adoption in half.
However, if the deficit is not as large as anticipated, present certified and classified staff would be the first areas not cut.