Facing a potential multi-million dollar deficit in two years, the Canal Winchester Board of Education is moving ahead with plans to place an estimated 7.9-mill levy on the November ballot.
The board met in special session on Aug. 6 to discuss the district’s five-year fiscal forecast and determine the type of operating levy needed to generate more than $3 million in revenue to keep the school system out diving deeply into the red-either an emergency measure expiring in four years or a traditional continuing levy.
The emergency levy was the option most favored by board members, but they also wanted to explore the option of a traditional levy.
A growing student population and changes in utility deregulations and tangible personal property tax collection, coupled with the loss of a 4.9-mill levy last year, found the board unanimously approving three variations of the levy in order to determine which one was best to put before voters in the fall.
According to Treasurer Joyce Boyer, without additional revenue, the district will end the 2007-08 school year with a positive balance of $780,000. However, in 2008-09 the numbers head into the deficit column, resulting in a negative balance of over $3.4 million. In 2009-10 the deficit grows to $8.3 million and jumps to $14 in 2010-11.
"Any change in state funding is already plugged into the projections," said board member David Brobst.
Superintendent Dr. Kim Miller-Smith said a 12.9-mill operating levy would keep the district in the black until 2010-11, but given the current economy, she said she was not comfortable asking for a double digit levy.
"Voters were told if the 4.9-mill levy didn’t pass for the $3.2 million, we would have to come back with a 7.9-mill (to generate the same amount of revenue) and that’s what’s happened," reported Miller-Smith in discussing the emergency measure. "This would last us, but we would be back with a bond issue in 2008. I was looking at the short term to secure this amount of money. We would be able to count on $3.2 million through the life of the levy."
Brobst added, "We kept our word. We told them 4.9 last year would be 7.9 this year. As fast as we grow and as quick as we change, maybe there’s more logic to asking for a 7.9 (mill levy) for four years."
Although fellow board member John Kantner felt the amount of the proposed levy was a big hurdle to jump, he said the amount was justified.
Boyer said part of the reason administrators focused on a limited term levy rather than a traditional continuing levy is because of many changes in tangible personal property tax collection and to allow the new superintendent time to look at cost-cutting measures.
"The state makes it so convoluted that it makes taxpayers think the state is going to step in," said board member Chuck Miller. "It (emergency levy) shows the public we’re trying to appeal to the fact this levy will go away after four years. We’re trying to give the best education we can, but it takes money. We do everything we can to try and control things."
Boyer advised the board to also consider measures they need to take if the levy doesn’t pass. She said the district would have to start planning quickly if the levy fails and, in order to eliminate a $3.5 million deficit in 2008-09, significant changes would need to be made in order to balance the budget.
The board approved a $336,110 contract with Performance Site Company for turn lanes onto Parkview Drive at Lithopolis Road for a new middle school, which will house grades six through eight. It is scheduled to be completed in November. The approximately $20.4 million project also includes construction of an addition to the Winchester Trails complex.
Lithopolis Road will be closed for a month between Hayes and Groveport roads-starting approximately Aug. 27-with traffic detoured to Richardson and Hayes roads during the construction period. Signs re-directing traffic are expected to be posted three days before the road is temporarily closed.