The Pickerington Local School District expects to maintain a general operating budget of close to $90 million in the 2011-12 school year.

The Pickerington Local School District expects to maintain a general operating budget of close to $90 million in the 2011-12 school year.

Treasurer Dan Griscom said on Monday, Sept. 26, the district has set its operating budget for the 2011-12 school year at approximately $88.65 million.

The projected general fund is less than the district's 2010-11 budget of approximately $92.83 million.

Griscom said the district should have enough money to balance its books this school year. He said that's due to approximately $13 million in cuts approved by the Pickerington Board of Education last January - which included laying off 82 teachers and 43 other staff members - as well as local voters' approval of a 5.5-mill levy on Aug. 2.

The levy, according to the district, is expected to generate about $5.95 million per year, beginning in January 2012. Annually, it will cost property owners $168.44 for every $100,000 of assessed property valuation.

"We'll definitely be in the black this year," Griscom said following a school board meeting on Monday morning. "With the levy passing, we're definitely in a much better position where our revenues exceed our expenditures."

The approximately $88.65 million in the general fund for this school year doesn't include another $15.2 million in debt the district intends to pay off this year. Griscom said the debt was incurred over recent years from building construction projects.

A more detailed analysis of the district's budget for this school year and beyond is expected to be presented at the board's next regular meeting on Oct. 10. It's currently slated to begin at 7 p.m. at Heritage Elementary School.

"I will have the district's five-year forecast for the Oct. 10 meeting," Griscom said.

In other district news, Bob Blackburn, superintendent of the newly opened Pickerington Community School, said the school's enrollment is approaching its proposed maximum of 50 students.

"We're currently up to 47 students," Blackburn said. "It appears to be growing every day."

The community school is operating in its inaugural year out of Pickerington High School North. It's designed to serve students in grades nine through 12 who are primarily between the ages of 16 and 21 and who previously had been home-schooled or are at risk of not graduating.

It is expected to serve approximately 50 students in 2011-12 and grow by about 25 students each year.

The school had only 25 students when it opened for classes on Aug. 29. But Blackburn said there has been plenty of interest within the school district from prospective students, parents and school officials.

"I think we just want to take it day-by-day and see what the teachers can handle," he said. "We've only taken kids from Pickerington. We're getting referrals every day from principals and counselors."

The community school is funded by two federal grants distributed to Ohio. It will be sponsored and overseen by the Pickerington Local School District, which initially will provide some start-up funds.

In addition to providing specialized education to students who might fall behind or drop out of more traditional classroom settings, the community school is expected to allow the PLSD to maximize its state funding. Each time a student leaves, the district loses that portion of per-pupil funding from the state.

By providing alternative education to students who otherwise might have dropped out of school, the district will retain that per-pupil funding from the state.