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Task force to tackle 2010 schools levy in Bexley
Although Bexley Schools has more than a year to decide the specifics of a levy anticipated in 2010, school leaders are taking action now to address the effects of the national economic downturn.
The school district invited members of the community to attend a meeting Feb. 3 that initiated the formation of a task force to address the current school district's budget and look into a levy that must go to voters next year.
At a Feb. 3 community meeting, school officials initiated the formation of a task force and posed three questions to the more than 30 in attendance:
• What is the ideal timing for the next levy?
• What should be the length of the next levy?
• What type of levy should the school district place before the public?
Bexley Schools is facing a shortfall of $1.5 to $2.7 million due to falling interest rates, state budget cuts and a decrease in expected revenue from income tax.
Superintendent Mike Johnson said the district is working toward the goal of reducing expenditures by $1.2 million to help offset this shortfall.
The district already has made adjustments over the past five years as enrollment has fallen, including reducing staff numbers by not replacing some employees who have retired or resigned.
At the high school, where enrollment has dropped by nearly 250 students during the past five years, similar adjustments will be made this year based on projected retirements.
The district also is looking into other ways to cut expenditures, such as rotating AP class offerings and emphasizing efficiency - all with the goal of maintaining the quality of education students receive, Johnson said.
But any cuts made this year would be a short-term solution, officials say.
The school district has not placed a levy on the ballot since 2004. That levy was intended to cover five years of operation costs, but the district stretched its budget to cover six years of costs.
"Starting in 2010, we're going to be spending more than we're bringing in," District Treasurer Chris Essman said.
If a levy is placed on the ballot in 2010, the school district may start collecting the property taxes generated by that levy in 2011.
That leaves the district with the decision of either placing a levy on the ballot in the spring or in the fall of 2010.
If the levy does not pass in the spring, the district may try again with voters in the fall. But if the levy fails in the fall, the results could put the district in the same situation other school districts are facing currently, Johnson said.
"If we delay and wait until closer to when we need the levy, if it fails, the consequences are devastating," he said.
The district also must decide the amount and length of the levy.
Although Bexley could receive federal funding and maintain its state funding as part of a stimulus package, school officials say the governor's plan will play into the amount of the levy that will go on the ballot, but not the time line.
"We know no matter what happens with the governor's plan, we know we're going to have to come back to the taxpayers," Johnson said.
Under the economic stimulus plan the U.S. House is considering, Bexley could receive $544,800 in 2009 and $951,300 in 2010. However, school officials say it is difficult to predict what the final package will look like and those funds must go toward specific uses, such as funding for disadvantaged students or construction funds.
The filing deadline for a May 2010 ballot is February 2010, Essman said.
Johnson said members of the community are encouraged to attend task force meetings held during the next year and provide input to the questions posed at the Feb. 3 meeting. Another meeting will be scheduled in about five to six weeks, he said. For information about the task force, contact Amy Thompson at (614) 238-6663.
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