CW schools in money pinch

Calling 2008 an "unusual year" is somewhat an understatement for the Canal Winchester School District.

Not only did the district see a levy go down in defeat for the third time in March, it (like districts throughout the state) recently received notification that planning for Ohio tax receipts for the upcoming year should reflect a zero or less increase.

Coupled with a net new enrollment of less than a dozen students, the economic picture continues to be painted in darker colors. Anticipating ending fiscal year 2009 with $2.7 million in unreserved funds, Canal Winchester is revising financial figures down. Way down.

"We’re now anticipating $1.5 million at the end of fiscal year ’09," said Treasurer Joyce Boyer. "We’re down $1.2 million because of a decreasing number of students and decreasing property tax. We anticipated adding 194 students, but we’re only up 11 from last year, which is a substantial difference."

On May 19, the school board approved a five-year financial forecast, projecting 220 students added to enrollment numbers in 2008 and an unreserved fund balance of $3 million. During their Oct. 20 meeting, the board was informed the number was revised to $1.5 million, without additional revenue.

The district is asking voters to approve an 8.9-mill operating levy that would generate $3.7 million in additional funds. It would cost the owner of a $100,000 property $272 per year and collection would not begin until January 2009.

"This is a very unusual year," continued Boyer. "We know people have moved out of the district, while others are now going to the new community school. We anticipate enrollment will be up next year, but we also have to look at income tax revenue and continue to carefully re-evaluate any expenditures."

In spring, total revenue for 2009 was projected at $30.4 million, but was revised down to $28.9 million in October. The cost for expenditures was estimated in May to be $30.7 and upped to $31.4 million five months later.

A 4.9 mill operating levy was turned down by voters at the polls in 2006, followed by the defeat of a 7.9 mill levy in November 2007 and an 8.9 mill levy in March. Pay-to-play fees doubled and high school busing, field trips, supplies, training, and staffing numbers were cut. The reductions represented approximately $1.8 million in additional cuts above the $1.7 million in budget adjustments made since August 2007.

If the levy is approved by voters, the school board is considering a list of programs and services that could be reinstated during the present school year including: high school busing with central bus stops followed by a restoration of full high school busing for the following school year, text book purchases, select field trips, middle school alternative education placement, an increase in building supply accounts, and a reduction in pay-to-play fees.

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