Westerville City Schools' five-year budget forecast, presented to the school board at its meeting Monday, shows major deficits after this fiscal year, highlighting the district's need to raise revenue or cut costs.

Westerville City Schools' five-year budget forecast, presented to the school board at its meeting Monday, shows major deficits after this fiscal year, highlighting the district's need to raise revenue or cut costs.

The five-year forecast, presented by treasurer Scott Gooding, projected a $6,150 balance at the end of fiscal year 2010, which is June 30, 2010. That small balance is followed by years of projected multimillion-dollar deficits -- $18.8-million in 2011, $45.9-million in 2012, $82.8-million in 2013 and $109.7-million in 2014.

"We need additional revenue to continue our current levels of service or we'll have to make drastic cuts," Gooding said.

The district has placed an 11.4-mill replacement levy on the Nov. 3 ballot, which would raise taxes by 7.97 mills.

The district's financial forecast was further complicated by the state's budget, which altered the way funding is provided to schools and includes future mandates to schools, including all-day kindergarten and lower student-teacher ratios.

"I would call this more strings attached to funding than we've ever had," Gooding said.

Because there are provisions for waivers in the budget bill, the mandates to schools likely won't have an effect on the budget over the next two years, which is how long the district has committed to making the November levy last if it is passed, Gooding said.

Given "all the waivers and other provisions," he said Westerville school officials are still trying to understand how the budget bill will affect the district.

"It may not be this levy; it will be the next levy," he said.

Nonetheless, school board President Kevin Hoffman said the five-year forecast shows a disturbing trend in state funding, with a $2.6-million decrease in funds to the district from 2007 to 2010.

Looking at the forecast, Hoffman said in none of the five years is the funding projected to return to its previous levels.

"State foundation funding is getting us nowhere. It's not even in line with cost of living," he said. "Each year, we get a little behind."

The state budget bill further hurts the district by taking away funding for some programs, such as the Safe School Help Line, and by prohibiting the district from collecting fees from students who receive free or reduced-price lunches, Superintendent Dan Good said.

"There's nothing in the state budget to help with those costs. That's all passed on locally," Good said. "It's a challenge. It's not a new challenge. It's something we face every two years."

Other items driving the district's deficits include growth in salaries and the costs of goods, as well as projected growth in health-insurance premiums, Gooding said.

The five-year forecast could see fluctuations, for better or worse, if the economy improves or worsens, Gooding said.

"It could change the numbers on this forecast in the blink of an eye," he said.

The five-year forecast will be posted on the district's Web site, www.westerville.k12.oh.us, for residents to view and provide feedback. The board is expected to vote to approve the forecast in October because the document must be submitted to the state by Oct. 31.