Even if voters approve an operating levy in May, the Reynoldsburg school district will have to find ways to cut more than $3-million from its budget for next year.

Even if voters approve an operating levy in May, the Reynoldsburg school district will have to find ways to cut more than $3-million from its budget for next year.

The Reynoldsburg Board of Education voted 4-1 last week, with member Elaine Tornero opposed, to place an incremental operating levy on the May 4 ballot. However, Superintendent Steve Dackin and board member Chip Martin both indicated the levy would not solve all the district's financial problems.

Dackin said those cuts, if they are combined with levy approval, will allow the district to balance its budget for the next fiscal year.

"If it passes, the $3-million (in cuts) will allow us to continue to be cost-effective and allow us to take the levy and make it last as long as we can," he said.

After having the last three operating levy requests defeated, this one is a real necessity, Martin said.

The levy would start at 6.9 mills and would increase by 1 mill a year for the next three years, ending at 9.9 mills.

The cost to homeowners during the first year would be $211 per $100,000 of home valuation. That would increase to $241 the next year and $271 the year after that, ending at $303 per $100,000 of home valuation.

Martin said school officials "looked at this phased-in levy as providing more affordability for our taxpayers in these difficult times.

"And it gives the district essential revenues to keep critical educational programs at our elementary, middle and high schools," he said.

Dackin said Reynoldsburg schools are "on the precipice."

"We need a levy passed in our school district after 13 years of not having a tax increase for operations," he said. "We've cut $17-million in our operational budget We can't keep cutting and we won't be able to cut our way out of this."

He said he may have specifics ready by the school board's March meeting on what the $3-million in cuts will entail. One thing that will definitely be a part of the equation will be shutting down Graham Road Elementary School next year, a year sooner than expected, which will save the district $500,000 -- something Dackin said will prevent him from seeking that much in additional budget adjustments elsewhere.

Dackin noted that from a performance standpoint, Graham Road Elementary has been a wonderful school over the years, but closing it is nothing more than a financial decision.

"We want to reduce the impact on cutting programs and services and we want to keep as many teachers in the district as we can to do what we need to do," he said.

Further savings toward the $3-million in may come through attrition, Dackin said.

If the incremental operating levy passes, he said it will give the district the needed revenue to be able to maintain what he thinks most people perceive is basic programming.

"I think there's an impact that's being felt in our community or perception that the schools are offering less than basic programming," he said. "Every other district that surrounds us offers art, music and physical education to their students K-6 and we don't. Every other district around us provides transportation above state minimums; we don't.

"Every other district around us has substantially lower extracurricular activity fees than we do.

"And if we have to continue to cut, that will only dig a deeper hole we won't be able to get out of, so you have to ask yourself, does that make the community of Reynoldsburg a more appealing place to live for families and community members or less appealing?" he said.