Gahanna area voters will see familiar issues on the ballot when they go to the polls in a few days.

Gahanna area voters will see familiar issues on the ballot when they go to the polls in a few days.

The Gahanna-Jefferson schools return to the May 3 ballot with another operating levy request, but it's less than last November.

Issue 6 is the district's 5.2-mill operating levy that would generate up to $8 million annually. The levy's cost would be an additional $159 annually per $100,000 of assessed property value, said Julio Valladares, district treasurer.

At risk if the levy fails is high school busing, and an additional $7 million would have to be cut from the district's budget. Superintendent Mark White said this has been one of the toughest years in the district's history, with $7 million in budget cuts on top of the previous $5 million in cuts over the past two years.

White said the district would implement pay-to-participate fees for athletics in the fall, at $200 per sport for high school students and $100 per sport for middle school athletes. The passage of the levy would allow the district to cap all athletics fees for the high school at $500 per family and $250 per family at the middle school. No caps will be in place if the levy fails.

White said participation fees for speech and debate, band and choir are being studied. He has said he anticipates a fee of about $25 per student, with a recommendation expected in May. If the levy passes, White said, caps would be placed on the fees.

The number of students per class also hinges on the outcome of the district's levy.

If it fails, class sizes will be as follows: elementary, 28 students; middle school, 30; and high school, 30 to 36. If it passes, class sizes will be 26 at elementaries; 28 at middle schools; and 28 to 34 at the high school.

The operating levy also would affect staffing levels, as well as the number of electives that would be offered next school year.

Citizens for Responsible School Spending (CRSS) is a group of Gahanna residents openly opposing the school district's proposed 5.2-mill levy, but organizer Glenn Reid has said the members are as devoted as the proponents.

"It's like Star Wars," he told ThisWeek in March. "We're fighting the empire. My main point is that the current system is unsustainable and simply throwing more money at the deficit does not fix the structural issues that are consuming the school funding. On the current track, the district will require a major new levy every three years to satisfy the system they have crafted. This is the definition of unsustainable."

Ellen Thompson, a former organizer of CRSS, said she still opposes the school levy but she won't be as actively involved because of family medical issues.

"A year ago, it was 9 mills and now 5.2," she said. "They need to differentiate from wants and needs."

Voters in the city of Gahanna and Mifflin Township will decide on Issue 2, a 3.8-mill operating levy that would cost about $116 annually for every $100,000 of assessed property value. It's the same millage request voters had rejected in November.

The levy would generate about $3.7 million annually for the fire division, according to the Franklin County Auditor's Office.

The Mifflin Township Fire Department provides fire, rescue and EMS services to Gahanna and the unincorporated portions of the township, with an estimated population of 40,000.

Deputy fire chief Fred Kauser said money generated from the levy would be used to sustain current operations and improve EMS service.

Kauser said the division currently staffs one paramedic ambulance at station 134 in west Gahanna and part-time staffs a paramedic ambulance at station 131, in south-central Gahanna.

If the levy is approved, he said, the station 131 ambulance would be staffed full time, and if feasible, the division would staff an additional "peak period" transport ambulance at station 133, in northeast Gahanna.

At risk, if the levy fails, is a fire apparatus that's out of service because of staffing levels, Kauser said.

Issue 3 is the Mifflin Township Police Department's 8.8 mill levy. Only township residents will vote on the police levy because the Mifflin Township Police Department serves the unincorporated areas of the township. The police levy would cost residents about $269 a year per $100,000 of assessed property value.

Residents could calculate how much each levy would cost them by using the tax-levy calculator on the Franklin County Auditor's Office website: www.franklincountyauditor.com.

To access the individual cost of a levy online, select the "Property Search" link on the upper-right corner of the auditor's homepage. After searching by name, address or parcel number, select the "Current Levy Info" tab on the left side of the page for a breakdown of estimated levy costs for a home or business.