Some residents in the Worthington City Schools district questioned last week whether now is the right time for a school levy.

Some residents in the Worthington City Schools district questioned last week whether now is the right time for a school levy.

"People who I've talked to in my neighborhood will not vote for a levy," resident Scott Risher said following a Jan. 22 levy discussion at the Worthington Education Center.

Superintendent Melissa Conrath said if voters reject an operating levy on the May ballot, she will recommend that the board of education try again in November.

"We have to secure additional revenue this calendar year," Conrath said after the levy discussion. If not, the district will lose a year of collections, putting programming and staffing in jeopardy, she said.

Risher said he's aware of the district's financial pinch, and even complimented the administration's fiscal management. That said, he still thinks this is the wrong time to ask voters to approve an operating levy.

"All of our homes are in the $200,000 range," Risher said. If a levy were approved, "we'd each be paying over $400 a month" in taxes.

"The economy is bad and people are getting tired of being taxed to death," he said. "The district has done a good job at containing costs over the past five years."

But some district residents are out of work and can't afford a levy, he said.

"I wish I could give them (the school district) all the money they need," Risher said.

The Worthington Board of Education met Monday and has three more meetings scheduled -- Feb.6, Feb. 9 and Feb. 16 -- at which to decide the millage rate for a May operating levy. The district has until Feb. 19 to file a May levy request with the Franklin County Board of Elections.

School officials have discussed millage rates of 6.9 mills, 7.4 mills and 7.9 mills, which would cost homeowners an additional $423, $454 and $484, respectively, per $200,000 of real estate valuation.

"The average home value in Worthington is more than $200,000," treasurer Jeffrey McCuen said after the meeting.

During a full year of collections, a 6.9-mill levy would raise $12.1-million annually and a 7.9-mill levy would raise $13.9-million, McCuen said.

Even with no additional levy revenue, the district will be in the black through 2011. But due to rising employment costs and shrinking state revenue, the district is facing an $18.7-million shortfall at the end of fiscal year 2012, McCuen said.

Costs will continue to eat away at the district's projected year-end cash balance, which is expected to be $24.3-million at the end of 2009, $16.7-million in 2010, and $3.1-million in 2011.

According to McCuen's five-year forecast, 2009 is the last year revenue will outpace expenditures. In 2010, district revenues are expected to be $108.5-million with expenditures of $116.1-million.

Since the 2006 levy defeat -- a defeat school board President David Bressman referred to as "resounding" -- the district has cut 35 positions, including two administrative, 19 teaching and 14 classified jobs, saving schools $11.4-million. The district expects to cut an additional 15 high school teaching positions between 2009 and 2012.

Because the Ohio Department of Education considers Worthington schools a "high wealth" district, McCuen said that only 14 percent of the district's operating funds come from the state. The average Ohio school district receives half of its funding from the state, he said.