The Canal Winchester school district is heading back to the ballot on March 4 with another operating levy attempt and it is also girding itself for more than $600,000 in budget cuts.
The Canal Winchester Board of Education is considering three different continuing levy options:
•7.9 mills, which would raise $3.35 million annually and cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $242 in property taxes;
•8.9 mills, which would raise $3.78 million annually and cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $273 in property taxes; or
•9.9 mills, which would raise $4.2 million annually and cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $303 in property taxes.
If a levy passes in March, the district would not begin collecting the funds it would generate until January 2009.
Without new monies and including the cuts approved by the board, the district is projecting deficits of: $2.17 million in 2008-09; $6.032 million in 2009-10; and $10.74 million in 2010-11.
The board plans to hold a public meeting on Dec. 15 at 9 a.m. in the Canal Winchester High School library to get public input on the levy options. Then the board will meet on Dec. 17 at its regular meeting to make its decision on which levy to place on the March ballot.
Last Nov. 6 voters in the district rejected a 7.9 mill levy by 54 to 46 percent.
At its Dec. 8 meeting, the board appeared divided on which would be the best levy option.
"It doesn’t do us any good to put a big levy on the ballot if you can’t get it passed," said board member John Kantner. "The last election was fairly close. We need to keep the millage reasonable and find extra cuts. Then we have a chance."
Board member Stan Smith is in favor of a larger levy because its passage would mean the board would not have to quickly go back to the voters for more money to offset future deficits.
Board member Chuck Miller pointed the finger at what he feels is the state legislature’s failure to properly address the school funding issue.
"The state won’t function properly and help in the funding of the schools," said Miller. "In my eight years on the board we’ve spent so much time on levies and bond issues it gets to the point of being ludicrous…We’re growing at 200 students per year. We can only do this so long at no new monies."
Busing a big part of budget cuts
On Dec. 8 the board approved cuts of more than $600,000 to help offset the district’s growing deficit.
Significant among the cuts will be the consolidation of bus stops beginning Feb. 1. Students in grades K-8 will have to walk up to a half mile to a bus stop while high school students will have to travel to one of nine bus pick up points. The pick up points, which will be unsupervised, have not yet been selected, but will most likely be in large parking lots, such as for businesses or churches.
Bus drivers will not be laid off, but they will work shorter hours.
The transportation actions reduce the high school bus routes from 28 to nine and will save the district around $15,000 in 2007-08.
Canal Winchester Schools Superintendent Kimberley Miller-Smith said that, if the levy fails, "We won’t have a choice but to eliminate high school busing in 2008-09. We can’t support it without new money."
She said that, even if the levy passes in March, the consolidated bus stop plan will remain in place because, "We can’t have a Cadillac transportation system."
Other budget cuts
•Pay-to-participate fees will increase to $140. Around 925 students currently participate in activities affected by the increase.
•Supply and equipment accounts were slashed 20 percent.
•Field trips are eliminated beginning Jan. 1.
•Professional development and training for teachers has been reduced.
•Textbook purchases will be reduced.
Miller-Smith said if the levy fails the board will have to look at changing the half day, every day kindergarten program as well as cuts in personnel. She said personnel reductions could be addressed through attrition and taking on no new hires. Reductions in teachers would result in an increase in the classroom ratio of students to teachers.
Kantner cautioned, "While looking for cuts we have to remember we have a more important mission and that is educating the kids."