The Licking Heights Board of Education is in agreement: A levy will have to be approved next year for the district to remain solvent.

The Licking Heights Board of Education is in agreement: A levy will have to be approved next year for the district to remain solvent.

District officials aren't certain yet what type of levy should be on the ballot or how much money the district would ask voters to pay.

An existing $4.3-million emergency levy expires at the end of next year. The five-year forecast approved last month projects that the district would face $2.5-million deficit by the end of fiscal year 2013, assuming renewal of that levy plus a $1-million increase. The district's annual operating budget this year is almost $27-million.

Licking Heights treasurer Jennifer Vanover presented her top two suggestions for levy types during the board's Nov. 16 meeting. She said the most logical approach would be to replace the emergency levy are a renewal of that levy with an increase or a property-tax levy that increases annually by either a set dollar amount or percentage. She emphasized that they were examples only and were not necessarily representative of the amount of money the district should seek on its next levy. The first is a renewal of the $4.3-million emergency levy, with a $1.5-million increase, for a total of $5.5-million collected annually. The second was a property-tax levy collecting $4.5-million in year 1, with a $500,000 increase each year. The two levy examples showed a similar total cost to taxpayers over five years.

"We can still see that even with that kind of a passage, we still have some reductions to be made to get us through," Vanover said.

Board members asked Vanover about the possibility of pursuing an income tax instead of a property tax.

"The ideal scenario may be to put an emergency levy in place and replace it (later) with an income tax that's allowed to grow as the economy rebounds," she said. "The downside of an income tax is that it takes 18 months for a full collection."

Board member Richard Wand pointed out that the district would have to make budget cuts, regardless of whether a levy is passed.

"Our expenditures are increasing by about $3-million a year, and we're losing about $3-million a year (in revenue)," he said. "If we were going to ask for a levy that was going to satisfy the forecast, we would be talking about a 20-mill levy, which is obviously not realistic."

The finance committee will continue to discuss levy options, with the goal of bringing a recommendation to the school board before the February deadline for requesting a May levy.

In other business, the school board agreed to purchase two 77-passenger school buses for $77,760 each through the Metropolitan Educational Council.

"We're one of the few districts in the state that transports over 85 percent of our students," Superintendent Thomas Tucker said. "This will allow us to at least keep up with our growing bus ridership."

The school board's next regular meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 21 at Licking Heights High School, 4000 Mink St.