Days after announcing $13-million in budget cuts for the next school year, the Pickerington Board of Education on Jan. 28 said it would ask voters to support a 9.5-mill levy this May.

Days after announcing $13-million in budget cuts for the next school year, the Pickerington Board of Education on Jan. 28 said it would ask voters to support a 9.5-mill levy this May.

Despite plans to cut 87 teachers, reduce busing and tweaking school hours prior to the next school year, the Pickerington Local School District's expenditures for the 2010-11 year will outpace revenues by $8.6-million, treasurer Dan Griscom said on Jan. 28.

Griscom and Superintendent Karen Mantia said the district cannot sustain itself and balance its 2011-12 budget without new revenues.

In response, board members at a Jan. 28 special meeting voted 4-1 to approve legislation to put a 9.5-mill, continuing levy before voters on the May 3 ballot.

They also said they will consider making an additional $3.5-million in cuts to the budget to stretch any funds a new levy would yield.

"Everyone on this board understands the district needs to be on the ballot in 2011," board president Lisa Reade said. "The question was just the timing.

"There's not a question of whether the district needs money."

The board chose a May levy over August or November ballot initiatives despite opposition from Reade and board vice president Clay Lopez. They said the district should wait until August, when the district has more information about how much funding it will receive from the state.

However, board members Lori Sanders and Lee Gray argued the state's budget won't be finalized until July, and therefore the district's precise financial outlook for 2011-12 wouldn't be known before the May 4 deadline for placing an issue on the August ballot.

"We've all said there's no right answer," Gray said. "It's our best guess. We have to make our best choice."

Board members plan to meet again at 8:30 a.m. Monday, Jan. 31, at Heritage Elementary School to pass the final legislation needed to put the levy before voters.

If the levy goes forward and is passed, it would generate an estimated $10.14-million annually. It would cost homeowners an additional $290.94 in annual taxes per $100,000 home valuation.

Should the levy pass and tentative plans are pursued to cut another $3.5-million from the 2011-12 school year budget in addition to the $13-million announced on Jan. 24 officials said this would keep the district solvent until June 2014. At that time, the district likely would face an approximately $2-million deficit and be in a position to ask for another levy, Griscom said.

Some or all of those cuts may not be needed if the state's funding cut to the district is less than the 13 percent Griscom has estimated based on indications from state legislators.

If the 9.5-mill levy is passed and additional cuts aren't made, the PLSD would see an approximately $2.5-million deficit by June 2013.

Board member Cathy Olshefski voted against the 9.5-mill levy option, saying it wouldn't provide enough funding. Olshefski supported placing a 10.5-mill levy on the May ballot, which, if passed, would have yielded approximately $11.2-million yearly and, with the planned $3.5-million in additional budget cuts, would have kept the district afloat until June 2015. That levy would have cost homeowners $321.56 in annual taxes per $100,000 home valuation.

The higher millage levy received support from Lopez and Sanders, but because it was opposed by Gray and Reade, the proposal lacked the "supermajority" of votes needed to put the issue on the ballot.

In moving forward with a May levy, board members said the district is attempting to provide itself with a safety net. In the event the May levy doesn't pass, the board could vote to put levies before voters in August and November.

"If I was drowning and had three opportunities to be thrown out a lifesaver, I'll take all three," Gray said.