Gahanna-Jefferson administrators say they're taking residents' message of "do more with less" to heart.

Gahanna-Jefferson administrators say they're taking residents' message of "do more with less" to heart.

On the recommendation of district treasurer Julio Valladares and assistant superintendent Mark White, the Gahanna-Jefferson Board of Education agreed July 20 to place a 6.8-mill permanent levy on the November ballot. If approved, the levy would raise $10.1-million a year and cost an additional $208.25 for each $100,000 in assessed property value.

The median home value in Gahanna is slightly more than $200,000, so the median additional cost would be about $420 a year.

"This is the lowest amount I feel comfortable with and still be able to move forward with what we have to do," Valladares said. "This is pretty much a bare-bones budget to get us through the next three years. Any lower will start to jeopardize the quality of education for our students, and we need to protect that."

In May, voters rejected the district's request for a 9-mill levy: 6,276 against it to 5,810 for it. Since then, the district has cut its budget by more than $4-million, mostly in payroll, from its roughly $80-million budget and started looking into a "pay-to-play" option to offset the cost of district sports programs.

White said he expects the committee examining the "pay-to-play" options to come to the board with a recommendation in December.

"That could afford us possibilities in our numbers," White said. "Unfortunately, it's then coming out of the pockets of our parents."

The district reduced payroll by eliminating 40 positions, all through attrition. Those positions include 15 teachers, two administrators, 11 classified/unclassified positions and 12 alternative instructors who assisted in classrooms.

Valladares said the district already had eliminated about $1-million in payroll before the May levy failure and would continue to evaluate each position that becomes vacant on a case-by-case basis.

The cuts, Valladares said, equal about 2.9 mills in savings.

Valladares said if voters approve the proposed levy in November, it would carry the district through the next three school years, through the district's 2013 fiscal year. At that time the district will need to return to the ballot or face a nearly $1.2-million deficit.

Without the levy, Valladares said, he projects the district would face a budget shortfall of more than $6-million in fiscal year 2012. That shortfall, he said, will grow to nearly $19.3-million in fiscal 2013 and more than $37.1-million in the following year.

The last time voters approved a new levy for the district was in 2006. At the time, district officials promised the 7.9 mills they sought would last three years.

Just to keep up with inflation, Valladares said, the district would need to continue to cut expenditures by 3 percent to 4 percent a year. The recent gains in the economy aren't enough to eliminate the need for a new levy, he said.

"Unfortunately, public school revenue is derived from real estate taxes," he said. "Unfortunately, real estate tax is going down. Once the market recoups, the revenue won't come back for two or three years down the road."