Westerville City Schools
Voters reject levy/income-tax combo
The Westerville City School District faces $23 million in cuts from next year’s budget after voters rejected a levy request Nov. 8.
Issue 20, a combined property-tax levy and income tax, failed with 20,360 votes against the levy, or 61.05 percent, and 12,992 votes for the levy, or 38.95 percent, according to unofficial results from the Franklin County and Delaware County boards of election.
Although the school board has yet to act on any cuts, the levy’s failure likely will mean the loss of hundreds of jobs, all extracurricular activities, elective classes and special programs.
In September, administrators presented the board with $19 million in potential cuts they said would take the district to near state-minimum levels of service.
These included 204 teaching positions, eliminating physical education and arts programs at the elementary and middle school levels, cutting elective courses and foreign languages at the high school level and reducing the number of guidance counselors, media specialists, high school deans and intervention teachers.
The list also included the loss of more than 62 classified employees, which includes custodians, clerks, aides and secretaries, and 10 administrators.
Other cuts will affect employee benefits, busing, special programs such as the magnet program and the International Baccalaureate program, and professional development.
Representatives from the district could not be reached for comment on election night.
Members of LevyFacts and Taxpayers for Westerville Schools, two groups opposing the levy, said Westerville residents no longer could shoulder the burden of what they called unsustainable growth, which they largely attributed to the salaries and benefits of district employees.
“There was no justification for this levy,” Taxpayers for Westerville Schools spokesman Mike Jones said following the vote. “We recommended working aggressively with the unions to renegotiate the contracts, but they have not done that.”
The anti-levy groups maintain that cuts could be made to the district’s budget without harming students.
“We hope all the employees of the district now realize how serious the situation is and that the residents cannot give any more,” Taxpayers for Westerville Schools said in a press release. “We hope they come together to help the community by giving back concessions versus having their fellow employees lose their jobs. We can avoid layoffs, cuts in busing, cutbacks in sports and reductions in programs.”
Issue 20 combined a 4.06-mill property tax with a 0.5-percent income tax.
It would have raised property taxes for residents by $124.34 per $100,000 in assessed property value annually. The income tax would have applied to all income earned by residents, with the exception of Social Security, retirement or investment income.
According to figures from the district, the property tax would have generated about $5 million in fiscal year 2012 and about $10 million in the following fiscal years.
District officials estimated that the income tax would have generated $688,000 in fiscal year 2012, $8.7 million in fiscal year 2013 and about $11.5 million in the following three fiscal years.
Even with the passage of Issue 20, the district projected it would have had to make about $4 million in cuts each year for the next three years to stay solvent through fiscal year 2015.
The district’s financial predictions show a $14.4-million deficit at the end of that year with the levy’s passage and without budget cuts.