The Licking Heights Board of Education met Feb. 15 to begin planning both for an 11.9-mill property-tax operating levy and for cuts that district officials know must come.

The Licking Heights Board of Education met Feb. 15 to begin planning both for an 11.9-mill property-tax operating levy and for cuts that district officials know must come.

Board president Mark Satterwhite said it is difficult to propose cuts, but it is also responsible and necessary.

"Some people say whenever there is a levy, the district puts out a list and it's just blackmail or something," Satterwhite said. "We have to deal with this every month because we're always looking at our financing, so to me it's just being honest. If this does not pass, you need to know up front what we are dealing with. Even if it does pass, we will have to cut anyway just because of the way funding is going. We could not ask for a levy that would maintain everything we have right now."

Superintendent Thomas Tucker said the district had done very well with its revenue streams, having avoided an operating levy for four years, as the board had promised.

"Four years ago, May 2007 was the last time the Licking Heights Local School District approved additional operating dollars for our schools," Tucker said. "At that time we had 2,700 students. Today we have 3,500 students. In 2007 the board promised there would be no request for additional operating dollars for at least four years. The board kept their promise. Normally districts ask every three years for operating dollars."

Treasurer Jennifer Vanover said the district has grown significantly in student enrollment, which directly increases costs and lost state and other outside funding.

"Since the last budget, we've gained about 1,000 students and lost almost $700,000 in state funding," Vanover said. "Maybe $700,000 is not a lot compared to a $27-million budget, but it's still money that has to be made up. We are getting it from all directions."

Satterwhite said one of the state's standard education funding reports - the Cupp Report - showed that Licking Heights is among the lowest cost school districts.

The report is named after Ohio Supreme Court Justice Robert Cupp, who was a senator at the time of the "DeRolph v. State" school-funding litigation when the report was established.

"We're below everyone in the county," Satterwhite said. "We're actually on the low end. No one likes to hear that because they feel they pay too much. I don't care what it says, but if you look at it, we are doing more with less."

Satterwhite said the board probably would hold a community outreach meeting during the first week of March.