Voters defeated Canal Winchester Local Schools’ 8.9-mill continuing operating levy on March 4.
In Franklin County, unofficial results showed the levy passing with 2,089 for and 1,963 against.
However, it was a much different picture in Fairfield County with unofficial results tallying 612 for the levy and 884 against for a total count of 2,847 against and 2,701 for the operating levy.
"As a parent or school board member, it’s disappointing that we couldn’t muster enough support," said board member David Brobst. "I thought the campaign committee did a good job of getting the information out there to the public, but I’m sure concerns about the economy were detrimental to the levy."
Brobst says cuts are now inevitable.
"Making reductions is something we have to do, but it’s not something I’m looking forward to doing," said Brobst. "We’ve been without new money since 2001, so the cuts will only get deeper and deeper. Most of the board thought this levy had a pretty good chance of passing, so there aren’t any thoughts right now about when or what we’ll do next in going to the ballot. What we do know is we’re going to have to balance the budget."
Had the levy passed, the additional revenue was projected to keep the district in the black, under the current projections, until 2010-11.
Although estimates 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.
However, according to the state, districts are not allowed to operate in the red and must balance their books; otherwise they face the possibility of state oversight.
In December, 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 had to submit a proposal avoiding the deficit to a School Finance Area Office by Feb. 8.
The proposal included 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, Canal Winchester could be placed in fiscal caution if it failed to submit an acceptable proposal.
The axe has already fallen. Bus routes were consolidated, plans are in place to cut positions, restrict purchases, eliminate field trips and professional development opportunities, and increase fees.
According to Citizens for Kids, $1 million in cuts were made prior to the start of the school year, with an additional $700,000 slashed from the budget for 2007-08.
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.
"We already came out with the list of reductions, we’re fine tuning them, and then we’ll proceed," said Treasurer Joyce Boyer. "We’re going to have to look at those reductions and determine how extensive the cuts will be. Our intent is to maximize every dollar we receive, but how deep we have to go depends on receipts versus income. It’s a sad situation. We lost the levy by only 2.63 percent. It’s not a big difference, but it was enough."
Seven years have passed since Canal Winchester voters last approved new operating money, although, on average, 211 students are added to district rolls every year. A 4.9 mill operating levy was defeated at the polls in 2006 and a 7.9 mill levy was turned down by voters in November.
Permanent and temporary cuts were made in order to meet the state mandate to balance the budget. While the levy would have kept the district in the black, Boyer previously said it would take a double-digit levy to fully restore the district, which the school board and administrators were hesitant to propose to voters.