The superintendent of the Delaware City School District says the decision to ask for additional funding was not made lightly.
"We're at a point of either needing to make some pretty drastic cuts ... or go back to our voters," Superintendent Paul Craft said.
The district's school board June 19 voted unanimously to put a five-year, 8.35-mill emergency levy on the Nov. 7 ballot.
The new levy would bring in $6.2 million annually for the district. Homeowners would pay an additional $288 annually per $100,000 in property value if the levy passes.
Craft said the levy request is not a sign of a spending problem, but a lack of funding from the state. He said state-imposed caps on funding to wealthy, growing districts cost the district $7 million per year.
"The caps continue to kill us," he said.
According to a performance audit released by the state auditor's office in late May, the district is faced with a $3.6 million deficit in fiscal year 2019, which would grow to an $18 million deficit by fiscal year 2021 without expense cuts or new revenue.
Non-levy solutions to the district's financial woes suggested in the levy include axing programs, laying off three dozen employees and raising fees and ticket prices for athletics.
"The teacher cuts in particular are the kind of thing that keep me up at night," Craft said.
Craft said Delaware's yearly spending per pupil -- about $10,000 -- already was the lowest in Delaware County and below almost every district in Franklin County in 2016-17. The state average was about $11,500. He said the levy would keep the district from falling even further behind its neighboring districts.
"We're trying to stay afloat right there at last or next to last in central Ohio in per-pupil spending," he said.
The district last went on the ballot with a substitute levy in March 2016.
That levy did not increase the rate at which residents are taxed, but it did indefinitely extend an 8.44-mill emergency levy. The substitute levy also allowed the district to collect additional revenue when new development occurs in the district.
Craft said he hopes the fact that the last request did not increase tax rates helps prevent voters from suffering ballot fatigue this time around.
Craft said he also wants state lawmakers to remove caps on funding for the few growing districts in Ohio. But he added the number of state lawmakers who represent districts with dwindling populations makes that unlikely.
"The last thing they want to do is have the funding formula reset to match actual enrollment," he said.