CW schools consider levy

Urged on by a group of concerned parents, the Canal Winchester Board of Education is delving into the turbulent waters of possibly placing an operating levy on the November ballot.

Board members and a handful of residents met June 3 to discuss finances and levy options.

Levy discussion

The district has until August to make a decision on what type of levy and how much millage is necessary to cover operating costs.

Prior to the meeting, parents Jennifer Nack and Melissa Chiles conducted an informal survey of a small sampling of the community regarding the possibility of placing another levy on the ballot. Nack told board members the overwhelming consensus was to return to the voters.

"Everyone was for it," said Chiles, "and quite a few said for you to ask for what you need, keep some of the cuts, and let them know what you are doing."

Board member David Brobst pointed out the reality of the district’s financial situation is such that certain reductions will have to remain in place, even if Canal Winchester is successful in passing a levy in November. He also wanted to place an issue on the ballot sufficient enough to possibly pull the district through three years without returning to voters.

However, Brobst also said reinstating programs is a balancing act between popularity and necessity.

According to Assistant Superintendent Barb Harrison, with the reduction in staff and a growing student population, class sizes continue to escalate and are pushing a ratio of one teacher per 25 students in the lower grades and even higher for middle schoolers.

Harrison said Canal Winchester’s ratio is on the high end compared with other neighboring districts.

"We’re doing with less people per student (certified and classified staff combined) than we’ve ever done before," reported board member Stan Smith. "Seventy-three people short of where we should be is a ton."

Chiles felt some extracurricular programming was unnecessary, in light of the district’s economic situation, and urged the district to refocus on its basic goal of teaching children.

"We get the feeling the majority of people said to ask for what you need so you don’t have to keep coming back," commented Nack. "We heard quite a bit that if you ask for less, you’ll lose credibility."

Board member Chuck Miller said the board would love nothing more than to not keep coming back to voters, but added something has to give when finances are short and the district continues to grow.

"We’ll sharpen our pencils and get a number back to you within a couple of weeks," said board President John Kantner regarding the potential millage for a proposed levy.   

A tight budget

Seven years have passed since 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. An 8.9 mill operating levy was defeated on March 4.

The district has made approximately $3.5 million in cuts. As a result, high school busing will be eliminated, pay to participate fees doubled to $140, supply and equipment accounts were reduced, and five teaching contracts suspended with eight others involuntarily transferred.

Consolidated bus stops will be a permanent way of life for all other students in the 2008-09 school year. The cuts also include reductions in gifted services, extended service days, and the elimination of $100,000 in textbook purchases. Field trips and out of district professional development will be eliminated and the Canal Winchester Joint Recreational District is now billed for the use of district fields and facilities.

Eight varsity assistant coach positions were sliced from the budget, as were: the purchase of two school buses, high school programs with an average fewer than 15 students, the hiring of seven projected teachers and four classified staff positions, and an athletic trainer’s pay.

As a direct result of action taken by the board to reduce expenses and balance the budget, the five eliminated teachers included a high school vocational education instructor; two Indian Trail teachers; a Winchester Trail fourth grade instructor; and  a middle school teacher. They will all be out of work at the end of the school year.

One administrative position-director of operations-was eliminated at a savings of more than $131,800.

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