South-Western City Schools residents cannot afford to pay more taxes for employee compensation, said Terry Jones, head of South-Western Alternatives to Taxes.

South-Western City Schools residents cannot afford to pay more taxes for employee compensation, said Terry Jones, head of South-Western Alternatives to Taxes.

School board members on May 18 approved another attempt on the Aug. 4 ballot of an 8.3-mill, four-year operating levy, the same levy defeated by 11 percentage points in May.

"I think the school district owes it to the voters to, at least, approach those unions and ask for more concessions," Jones said. "Residents in this district cannot afford to pay for those association contracts."

According to school district financial information, nearly $149-million in expenditures went to personnel compensation, retirement and insurance benefits during fiscal year 2008, which represents 82 percent of the district's total expenditures of more than $182-million for the year.

All district employees agreed to forego base salary increases leading up to the May levy, which district Treasurer Hugh Garside said gave the district the chance to avoid spending nearly $2-million more for employee salaries.

Jones said missing out on a salary increase for one year "just doesn't cut it."

"We just can't afford to keep paying into these contracts," he said. "They're asking us to make sacrifices to our incomes to pay for their incomes."

Jones cited figures from the American Community Survey showing the average income per resident in the school district at $22,173. The average household income was $57,355.

Jones said the survey is based on U.S. Census information. The last census was done in 2000.

According to the Ohio Department of Education, the average teacher salary in the SWCS district was $57,620 for 2007-08.

Jones said he received the American Community Survey figures from fellow South-Western Alternatives to Taxes member Frederic E. Van Order, who said he obtained them from the ACS Web site.

According to information from the Ohio Department of Education, SWCS ranks 14 of the 16 Franklin County school districts in per pupil expenditures.

Sandy Nekoloff, district spokeswoman, said the average salary Jones cited can be attributed to the district's "mature staff."

According to school district information, the average experience level of its 1,441 teachers is nearly 12 years. More than 66 percent of the district's teachers hold master's degrees or above.

Jones said he is "cautiously optimistic" the operating levy in August will fail. His optimism comes from the May defeat by more than 2,600 voters.

"I'm pretty confident that the people already have their minds made up on which way they're going to vote," he said.

With failure of the May levy, $8-million in school programs will be cut by the 2009-2010 school year, including 77 employee positions, high school busing and extracurricular activities. Those cuts are scheduled to begin June 5. Individual employees will leave as contracts expire.

Nekoloff said parents of students at Harrisburg Elementary School, one of the two schools to close due to May levy failure, have been notified that their children will now attend Darbydale Elementary School.

The levy, like the May issue, would raise nearly $21-million a year for the district for four years if passed.

It would cost an additional $254 a year for every $100,000 of assessed residential valuation. Residents now pay $1,061 in school taxes for every $100,000 in value.