In the wake of a fourth consecutive levy defeat, Canal Winchester school district officials said during Monday night's board of education meeting that district residents can expect a fifth levy try in 2009.

In the wake of a fourth consecutive levy defeat, Canal Winchester school district officials said during Monday night's board of education meeting that district residents can expect a fifth levy try in 2009.

The district also faces an estimated $1-million shortfall in state funding due to an unprecedented drop in student enrollment.

The Canal Winchester Board of Education and school administrators will hold a special meeting Dec. 6 to discuss the budget, enrollment and a 2009 levy.

Board President John Kantner said Monday it is too early to pin down when next year the district would again ask voters for more money to fund school operations.

"The need for new operating money isn't going away," Kantner said. "It is a reasonable expectation that there will be a request for operating money sometime in the next year."

In the meantime, Superintendent Kimberly Miller-Smith suggested that "continued belt-tightening and reductions" may be inevitable.

"We need to make another hard look at where we're going from here on," Kantner said. "It may necessitate further cuts, maybe next year."Canal Winchester resident Pat Chiles, husband of Melissa Chiles who co-chaired the recent levy campaign, said he is worried about the district's future.

"Anecdotally, I'm hearing that there are people who have taken their kids into private school or out of the district because they don't like seeing levies continually shot down," Chiles said.

He said he is concerned that the district might be headed for a "downhill slide," and wondered if future budget cuts would force academics and athletics to compete for scarce school dollars.

"It seems like there is going to be a hard choice forced on everybody," Chiles said.

But both Miller-Smith and Kantner said it is premature to speculate further about additional cuts, which will be discussed Dec. 6. But board member David Brobst said any cuts would be made for the next school year.

"This school year, there probably will not be any significant changes," he said.

In the past three years, officials have trimmed the Canal Winchester schools' budget by $3.5-million. Because of a steep and unexpected drop in enrollment, the district faces the loss of $1-million in state money at the start of the 2009-10 school year, treasurer Joyce Boyer said.

The district was expecting 194 new students for the 2008-09 school year, but instead had only 11 new students enroll. Boyer said the district receives $5,732 per pupil from the state.

"This year has been such an anomaly to every year before it," Brobst said, referring to the enrollment drop. "I don't quite understand the cause of such a drastic reduction. Is this just one blip on the radar screen?"

The loss of $1-million in state cash, voter rejection of the levy, and increasing operations costs are three fiscal challenges the district will face as it plans for the next school year. And the backdrop for all of these discussions is the economy.

Miller-Smith cited a recent survey of Ohio residents in school districts with failed November levies.

"Half of parents surveyed said the economy made an impact in the decision to vote against schools," she said.