Southwest Licking Local Superintendent Forest Yocum has been in public education for 42 years, 37 of them as an administrator.

Southwest Licking Local Superintendent Forest Yocum has been in public education for 42 years, 37 of them as an administrator.

What he is reminded of now, he said is a time in the 1980s when the state not only failed to increase funding to local school districts but also cut the funding in the middle of the year.

Yocum said this makes the November levy a high-stakes issue for the district.

"It does not affect what we do in August and September, but if the levy is not approved, we would not be able to collect anything on that levy when it expires in January," he said. "That does have an impact on the teachers and students because of what happens the following year."

Still, Yocum said, he would not expect layoffs before the summer.

"That would only be a problem if the state reduces funding midyear," he said. "Then we'd have to re-examine everything. Normally, that does not occur midyear, but in the 1980s, when I was at St. Henry (in Mercer County) as an elementary principal, the state did reduce funding in January, and they made it retroactive, so that was a double whammy."

Yocum said SWL has had its state funding capped.

"One of the things people don't understand is that they think we're asking for money all the time, but the last time we've asked for funding was when they approved the income tax in 1991, and then the operating emergency millage five years ago," Yocum said. "That's it for operations."

The district has asked for levies for buildings and permanent improvements, but such levies don't fund school operations, Yocum said. He said the district has grown by 485 students in five years, to a total enrollment of more than 3,900 students.

Yocum said he is not sure how the school-funding system should be changed.

"The governor's plan is a good plan if it could be funded, but unfortunately, the money is not there to fund it," he said. "If the money is not there to fund it then it can't happen. No matter what happens, the only way schools can receive more money is a tax issue.

"As the governor said, school funding is always going to be a partnership between the state and local community," he said. "The tax might be an income tax, a sales tax; most people would say those two are a fairer type of tax because you pay proportionately to what you earn. But property tax is much more stable. Schools know what that is going to generate for school districts. Mostly likely we will need a combination of all three."

Schools also face increasing levels of technology, which, Yocum said, improves teaching but costs more.

"The technology we provide our kids today is far more expensive than what we provided in the past," he said. "Twenty, 30 years ago, if we had an overhead projector, that was advanced. Today the expectation is to provide SMART Boards, where teachers and students can interact with students in other nations. The technological cost is much more than it used to be. It increases productivity and personal contact in other parts of the world. We're becoming a world society. ... Advances occur so rapidly, it's difficult to keep abreast of what is available."

The state auditor is conducting a performance audit that, Yocum said, probably would include some savings, but they likely would be savings that parents would not like.

"Some of the changes to be more financially solvent will be unattractive to parents, particularly in transportation and some of the opportunities we might be able to offer students," Yocum said. "It might be consolidating services or routes, more time on buses, more kids on buses, fewer stops. As far as curriculum, we don't have many extras available to our children. But we start looking at the state minimum. We might not be able offer some of the advanced-level science that we offer."