Hundreds of parents, staff members and students packed the Westerville North High School Commons on Thursday, Nov. 17, to urge the school board to reconsider cuts, after voters rejected a levy request on Nov. 8.

Hundreds of parents, staff members and students packed the Westerville North High School Commons on Thursday, Nov. 17, to urge the school board to reconsider cuts, after voters rejected a levy request on Nov. 8.

Dozens of people, including several students, asked board members to spare programs including sports and extracurricular activities as the district considers ways to trim $23 million from its budget.

The board has yet to act on any cuts, but must do so by the start of the next school year to balance the budget.

Thursday’s meeting was the first of several planned to discuss cost-savings initiatives, and was the first board meeting since voters rejected Issue 20 on Nov. 8.

Issue 20 combined a 4.06-mill property tax with a 0.5-percent income tax. It would have raised property taxes for residents by $124.34 per $100,000 in assessed property value annually.

Superintendent Dan Good presented the board with several cost-savings ideas — some of which could be implemented as soon as next semester, if they are approved — but said there is still work to be done.

“We’re still looking for ways to meet that $23 million in cuts,” Good said.

Reducing the number of bus stops and reducing school cleaning schedules were two options that could be implemented during the second semester of this school year, he said.

Good also suggested the board consider matching Westerville’s busing zone to the state minimum, meaning students who live within two miles of their assigned schools would not be eligible for district transportation.

Under Good’s plan, the district will wait until next school year to cut funding for sports, all extracurricular activities and the district’s subject-based schools, but will phase in $5 million in cuts before this school year is over.

Some cuts will take effect immediately, he said, such as a move to rebid the district’s insurance policy and requests for bids to outsource services such as maintenance and human resources.

The biggest cuts would come next school year, including an estimated 175 teaching jobs, all sports and Westerville’s magnet schools, which draw students from across the district to focus on specific subjects.

Over the next few months, Good said, district officials will meet with parents and community members to see what programs might be salvaged. Two administrators will be named as coordinators for that job, and the district will open a social-media site after Thanksgiving for residents to offer suggestions.

On Thursday, some parents told the board to negotiate with the teachers union for greater employee contributions to health care and other costs, but many defended the teachers, saying the budget burden should not be blamed on staff.

Tom Savage, who has a son who graduated from Westerville and another in high school, said district officials should harness the “can-do attitude” of its parents. He said they are willing to consider “pay to play” programs and other fundraising ideas.

“The parents are willing to do our part. Is the school board?” Savage asked.

Several students addressed the board, including Rachel Jackson, a junior at Westerville North, who is active in sports. She told board members she wanted to “be proud of Westerville,” even after she graduates.

“Extracurricular activities are what a lot of us students live for,” Jackson said.

Even with the passage of Issue 20, the district projected it would have had to make about $4 million in cuts each year for the next three years to stay solvent through fiscal year 2015.

Some parents told board members that as hard as it will be to accept the cuts, they should be made so the community can see the impact of the levy failure.

Good said Westerville will post information on potential cuts to its website, www.westerville.k12.oh.us and plans to launch a feedback area for community members to suggest cost-savings ideas.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for Nov. 28 at 6 p.m., at the early learning center, 936 Eastwind Drive.

Collin Binkley of The Columbus Dispatch contributed to this story.