In the past, the subject of school finances usually made for a dull, short discussion for most people. That is understandable given the fact that when we think of schools, we picture academics and extracurricular activities.

In the past, the subject of school finances usually made for a dull, short discussion for most people. That is understandable given the fact that when we think of schools, we picture academics and extracurricular activities.

As Worthington's superintendent, I have noticed that our residents are starting to look more closely at district finances lately. I'm sure other districts' residents are doing the same. After all, we are all investors in good schools, and regardless of whether you have school-age children, what happens in our schools affects so much of our financial future.

Just think, for example, how excellent schools protect our home property values. In a shaky economic environment, having great schools acts as a firewall, protecting property values and guaranteeing a stable, desirable community.

Today, through no fault of Ohio's school districts, that firewall is in danger of collapsing. As documented in the Popular Annual Financial Report (PAFR) sent to Worthington households in February, an action by the state is forecasted to, over the next few years, strip our schools of 12.6 percent of our tax base. A catastrophe is looming.

Why is this happening?

The state eliminated a tax on business known as the tangible personal property tax (TPP). It was a local business-property tax on machinery, equipment and inventory supporting school districts. This decision by the state was made years ago under the guise of "tax reform," but it is a reform that is causing school districts to lose millions of dollars, especially in communities like Worthington that are blessed with a solid commercial tax bases.

To help schools address the loss, the state has provided reimbursement payments to schools, but those are expected to be phased out entirely. However, the latest state budget has phased out those payments sooner that what is in current law. That means Worthington, for example, has lost $2.2 million in 2012 and is forecasted to lose $33.5 million through 2016.

Knowing these days were on the horizon, our district's leadership planned and prepared for these losses through tight fiscal controls. We have reduced spending and staff levels to live within our means. All members of our staff, including teachers, bus drivers, administrators and secretaries, have taken freezes, not only to their base pay but also to their experience-based step increases. This action alone will save us $1 million annually. Some other districts' teachers have agreed to similar concessions.

It is clear that the challenge we face in the future is not due to uncontrollable and irresponsible spending. Rather, it is a revenue problem.

Does this sound familiar?

Despite every effort to maintain a lean and slow-growth budget, without additional funds from a levy in 2012, Worthington schools will face deeper reductions to staff, programs and services. This would put our excellence at risk. Districts like Westerville, Dublin and South-Western understand this all too well, as they are recent examples of districts in need of levy support.

Over the next several months, we will be reaching out to the community to share the facts about district finances so every resident can make an informed decision about the future of our schools. This is definitely a time of transition, as community after community decides whether to maintain school quality or to allow gradual erosion of academic quality. Many Ohio school systems are facing similar critical decisions.

Districts count on informed voters to decide which direction to go.

Thomas Tucker is the superintendent of Worthington City Schools. He can be reached at ttucker@worthington.k12.oh.us.