The Canal Winchester Board of Education agreed during a special meeting on Monday, Jan. 24, to seek a 14.78-mill, three-year emergency levy in May.

The Canal Winchester Board of Education agreed during a special meeting on Monday, Jan. 24, to seek a 14.78-mill, three-year emergency levy in May.

If approved, it would generate $6,439,000 per year.

Monday's vote to establish the size of the request followed a unanimous vote on Jan. 13 to place a renewal levy on ballot. An emergency levy approved last year will expire in 2012.

Board member Brian Niceswanger asked the board to consider request 13.78 mills instead of 14.78 mills.

"I think it is critical to get this passed this May," he said.

Niceswanger said the slight reduction would demonstrate to the community the board is aware of tough economic times and that continuing to pay the higher level is a strain for taxpayers. He said the lower millage request would also show the district is being as cost-effective and efficient as possible.

"We will continue to look for ways to save money," he said. "This would be a good demonstration on our part and help market the renewal and go further toward getting it passed."

Niceswanger said voters have told him they had to pay a portion of their tax bill with a credit card or postponed family vacations so they could pay their taxes. People in the community are still smarting from the emergency levy passed two years ago, he said.

Board member Michael Yonnotti asked how asking for 1-mill less would affect the school district. A 1-mill reduction would cost the district $436,000 a year, Niceswanger said.

School board member David Brobst said the loss of another $400,000 would be difficult for the district to absorb.

"It seems like a tough row to hoe," he said.

It costs the owner of a $100,000 home $35 for every 1 mill, school district officials said. Brobst said decreasing the millage request results in a significant impact to the school district.

"I'm not just too sure you are going to sway a lot of people with $2.50 a month or $5 a month," he said.

Superintendent Kimberley Miller-Smith said a 1-mill reduction would cost the school district an additional seven teachers. District officials are looking at other avenues to save costs but personnel will need to be cut to offset revenue losses from the state, she said.

State lawmakers are dealing with a projected $8-billion shortfall in the next two-year budget. Gov. John Kasich has pledged not to raise taxes to close the gap and many Ohio school districts are forecasting 10- to 15-percent cuts in state aid.

Even if the levy is approved, the Canal Winchester district still faces a shortage of about $791,000 in the next school year, district officials have said.

Brobst said he appreciates the premise of asking for a smaller levy but thinks the district would need to ask for 9 mills in order to make a significant difference to voters opposed to the levy.

"It seems like for what we are giving the residents, there is a tremendous impact to the district," he said.

Yonnotti said the school district has made it very clear to the public that reductions to the budget are planned and will be implemented throughout the whole process.

Board President Debra Waites said she supports the 14.78-mill request.

"The amount is fine in my opinion," she said.

Board members approved the three-year, 14.78-mill levy request by a 4-1 vote, with Niceswanger voting no. He said afterward he intends to fully support the levy request approved by the board.

Miller-Smith said later she will recommend that budget cuts for the 2011-12 school year be made through attrition, reduction of budget items -including those with state-mandated set-asides - and continued implementation of efficiency study strategies.

Without the renewal of the present levy, the district will need to cut $4-million from the budget. That would lead to a loss of 50 employees, she said.

"An amount this large can be reduced mainly from staff," she said. "As a rule of thumb, districts plan 15 employees per $1-million."

The board will conduct a special work session at the Education Center, 100 Washington St., at 9 a.m. Feb. 5 to discuss facilities and planning, new curriculum and test requirements and school finances. The public is encouraged to attend.