Worthington school district voters will go to the polls next Tuesday to decide the fate of a 7.4-mill permanent operating levy for the Worthington schools.

Worthington school district voters will go to the polls next Tuesday to decide the fate of a 7.4-mill permanent operating levy for the Worthington schools.

If approved, Issue 17 will cost the owner of a $200,000 house an additional $453.25 a year in property taxes.

It will generate $13-million annually, which school leaders say is enough money to maintain current district programs for at least three years.

Without a levy, the district will face an $18.7-million deficit at the end of the 2012 fiscal year. The five-year forecast shows a $23.3-million balance at the end of 2009, a $16.7-million balance at the end of 2010, and a $3.1-million balance at the end of 2011.

The forecast shows revenues decreasing from $112.1-million in 2009 to $103.7-million in 2013. At the same time, spending is forecasted to increase from $112-million to $132.8-million.

If a levy is not approved this year - the district can try again in November if this attempt fails - the district will face "significant cuts in the millions of dollars" or a significant increase in the size of the next levy, said school district treasurer Jeff McCuen.

"We recognize that the community values the job the district has been able to do and we want to maintain that quality," said Superintendent Melissa Conrath.

The board has committed to making this levy last at least three years. If additional funds are forthcoming from the state or federal government, those funds will be used to extend the life of the levy or to lower the size of the next levy, according to a resolution approved by the board in February.

The last operating levy was approved by voters in March 2004.

The campaign for this levy has been relatively quiet, though approximately 30 people - most of them opposed to the levy - turned out at a forum sponsored by Educate Worthington on April 20.

Educate Worthington is an organization run by residents Mike Alfred and John Herrington. They question board financial decisions and encourage residents to look closely at financial information.

Asked for a final comment on the levy, Herrington stated, "Whether the levy passes or fails, the taxpayers, the district staff and, most of all, the students, would benefit from a long-term sustainable spending plan."

Under the board's current plan, there will be no choice but to return to voters in three years to meet rising costs, Educate Worthington literature points out.

The district cannot control costs unless the teachers union reconsiders its recently approved three-year contract, and the district will have no reason to better control spending if voters approve the levy, according to the literature.

The contract calls for a 2.85-percent increase to the base pay of all teachers. On top of that, teachers receive annual step increases of between 0 and 5 percent, plus they receive additional raises for attaining additional education.

Critics also charge that teachers' benefits, including health care, is more generous than those received by people in the private sector.