The Hilliard City School District Board of Education voted 4-1 at a special meeting March 28 to pass a resolution eliminating 51.5 teaching and classified positions, reduce the pay of an additional 247 positions and eliminate various middle school programs.

The Hilliard City School District Board of Education voted 4-1 at a special meeting March 28 to pass a resolution eliminating 51.5 teaching and classified positions, reduce the pay of an additional 247 positions and eliminate various middle school programs.

The cuts total $3.8-million.

The cuts would go into effect for the 2011-12 school year if voters don't approve Issue 7, the 6.9-mill property tax levy that the district has placed on the May 3 ballot. According to the district's projections, the levy would cost taxpayers an additional $216 annually for each $100,000 of home value.

Superintendent Dale A. McVey said the cuts are necessitated by Gov. John Kasich's draft biennial budget, which will cause Hilliard City Schools to lose $14.1-million in state school funding over the next two school years.

In compiling the list of budget reductions, "we wanted to make sure we weren't overreacting. We also didn't want to under-react," McVey said.

In addition to the staff reductions, the list of cuts includes eliminations of gifted instruction, all middle school athletic programs, fifth-grade band and strings programs, and transportation services for field trips, daycare services and gifted programs.

Before casting his dissenting vote, board member Paul Lambert said he thinks the board should have waited to find out more details about the final state budget before approving the cuts. He said the district could place a 1.3-mill levy on the ballot to compensate for the anticipated loss of funding from the state's phase-out of the business tangible personal property tax.

"We're asking voters to approve a levy five times that," he said.

Lambert said parents have expressed concerns to him about the elimination of gifted instruction.

While it would be difficult to find other areas to cut to maintain gifted instruction, "that doesn't mean it shouldn't be done," Lambert said.

Other board members said they share some of Lambert's concerns, but they believe it was best to take action sooner rather than later.

"With a district of our size and what's at stake, we need to have something in place" if the levy doesn't pass, said board president Doug Maggied.

Board vice president Lisa Whiting said it was important to inform staff members whose positions may be affected.

"The governor seems to, every day, come up with different scenarios" for the budget, Whiting said. "Are we going to have to be flexible in our decision making? Yes. To create a list that we're going to stand behind is really important."

Board member Andy Teater said residents began inquiring about potential cuts as early as January.

"I think this is being responsive to that," Teater said. "We have to be definitive about that, or else there's second guessing - 'They may cut that or they might not cut that.'"

Board member David Lundregan also said the board needed to take action to inform staff and residents about what will happen if the levy doesn't pass.

"We have to start making tough decisions," he said. "We can't put this off any longer."

Mike Harrold, a parent of three children who attend Hilliard schools, asked the board to consider an across-the-board 3-percent pay cut for all district employees instead of the proposed eliminations.

"Maybe we ought to consider some alternatives before bringing down the big ax when the levy doesn't pass," Harrold said.

Treasurer Brian W. Wilson said the district's current contract with the teachers' union would make it difficult to institute such a pay cut.

"We have a contract that doesn't expire until Dec. 31," he said. "We have to have the budget balanced come July 1."