Without additional funds from a levy, the Westerville City School District would need to cut $23 million from its 2012-2013 budget, returning district programs to near state minimums.

Without additional funds from a levy, the Westerville City School District would need to cut $23 million from its 2012-2013 budget, returning district programs to near state minimums.

At a Sept. 26 school board meeting, the district’s administration outlined what cuts would come without the passage Nov. 8 of Issue 20, a combination of a 0.5-percent earned-income tax and a 4.06-mill property tax.

“This is reality, and this is sad reality, and people will have to face it if this levy doesn’t pass,” school board President Kristi Robbins said. “Our school district will look very, very different.”Without the levy, all extracurricular activities, including sports, music and arts programs, would be eliminated.

The district also would cut arts and physical-education programs at the elementary- and middle-school levels and would reduce elective offerings at the high-school level.

The magnet-school program would be eliminated and busing would be reduced to state-minimum requirements, meaning there would be no transportation for students living within two miles of a school. In addition, the walking distance to bus stops would be increased to a half-mile and there would be no transportation for high school students.

Students would see losses in language programs and advanced programs at the high school, such as the STEM Bodies program and the International Baccalaureate program. High school students would be limited to taking five courses at a time. Class sizes would increase.

The district also would reduce its personnel, cutting maintenance workers; high school deans; music, art and physical-education teachers; reading specialists; guidance counselors; media clerks and specialists; secretaries; aides and administrators.

Administrators did not say how many positions would be eliminated. District officials did not assign dollar amounts to individual programs that would be cut.

Board members said the impact of cuts that size on the district is unthinkable.

“It puts a pit in my stomach when I look at a list like this,” board member Jeff Gale said.

Board member Denise Pope said cutting programs to the state minimum is not acceptable for Westerville.

“State minimum does not provide our children and our students with those opportunities. It provides them with a high school diploma,” Pope said. “We have to be competitive. We have to give them that leg up. É State minimum is not enough..”

With such a large gap in the 2012-2013 budget, the items outlined to be cut would not be up for debate but would be necessary to keep the district financially solvent, board member Cindy Crowe said.

“It’s not a menu; $23 million is a lot of money,” Crowe said. “It’s definitely devastating.”

Many residents spoke to the board during the meeting, pledging their support of the district’s levy bid. Others blasted the district for its continually rising costs.

Resident Jon Walden said the community must be willing to financially support the school district despite tough economic times.

“There’s no doubt these difficult economic times have led us to make difficult economic decisions for our families,” Walden said. “We cannot sacrifice opportunities for our children.”

But Wendy Lomano said the board has led the district to this point by approving raises and benefits for staff members that taxpayers can’t afford.

“(Without those raises), we would not be here. We would not be looking at cutting our staff. You would not once again be threatening these same old cuts,” Lamano said. “Over the years, the administration and the unions and the board have failed us. Most of all, you have failed our children.”