South-Western City School district Treasurer Hugh Garside told school board members on Monday the district could be looking at $8-million in budget cuts next fiscal year without any new taxes.

South-Western City School district Treasurer Hugh Garside told school board members on Monday the district could be looking at $8-million in budget cuts next fiscal year without any new taxes.

Using a forecast simulator, Garside showed district officials and residents the millage rate necessary to keep the district solvent through fiscal year 2011 during a board meeting.

Garside said an operating levy between 9.2 and 11.5 mills would keep the district's cash balance positive through fiscal year 2012.

If passed, an 11.5-mill operating levy would increase residential property taxes about $30 monthly, or $357 yearly for every $100,000 of home valuation.

A 9.2-mill levy would increase taxes about $24 monthly, or $288 yearly, Garside said.

The average sale price of a home in the district in 2008 was $124,690, according to information from the Columbus Board of Realtors.

Without new taxes, the district faces a deficit of $5.4-million by fiscal year 2010.

"If we are not successful on the next ballot, we would need to reduce about $8-million," Garside said.

He said about $8-million would need to be cut to allow for unexpected expenditures if a levy fails in May.

"An $8-million budget reduction would make this work more soundly," Garside added.

He reminded officials and residents that a levy passed in one year will not be collected until the next.

"Because we missed the opportunity in November, we have no opportunity to collect new taxes in 2009," Garside said.

Superintendent Bill Wise said money that could have been collected if the 6-mill operating levy and bond issue passed in November is now "lost forever."

The 6-mill operating levy would have raised $15-million annually for the district.

"You've really lost $15-million as a budget gap the whole way through," Wise said.

Garside said that the district made $14-million in cuts during 2007.

Every $5-million in cuts equates to a loss of about 100 personnel positions.

"Even with $5-million out in 2010, once those positions are gone, they don't come back," the treasurer added.

Feb. 19 is the deadline for seeking an operating levy on May's ballot.

"(A levy of) 9.2 mills may be a little tight," Wise said. "But somewhere between 9.2 and 11.5 mills will get us through 2012 with no reductions.

"All assuming there are no changes in the state biennium budget."

Garside said that the district receives roughly $90-million from the state, which is about half of the district's revenues.

A 5 percent reduction in the state's biennium planned budget could mean about $4.5-million lost from SWCS revenues, which is equal to approximately 1.8 mills in property taxes.

"These are significant dollars," Garside said.

ebrooks@thisweeknews.com