Even if voters approve a combination three-year, 7.9-mill operating levy and no-new-millage bond issue in May, Olentangy school officials said about $4.4-million in cuts must be made for the next school year.

Even if voters approve a combination three-year, 7.9-mill operating levy and no-new-millage bond issue in May, Olentangy school officials said about $4.4-million in cuts must be made for the next school year.

Superintendent Wade Lucas detailed those cuts and cost-saving measures at the March 16 school board meeting. He stressed that the reductions would not affect academic programs.

Up to 18 certified or teaching positions would be eliminated, along with 14 custodial jobs and 2.5 administrative jobs, saving an estimated $1.8-million, Lucas said. Some of the jobs would be lost as the result of attrition, or not filling vacancies. That is the case with the administrative positions. Two administrators left this year and another job became part-time, resulting in an overall savings of $232,000 in salaries and benefits.

The district could save an estimated $2-million by reducing its costs of employee salaries and benefits. The superintendent said that Senate Bill 5, which would severely restrict public employee collective bargaining and which currently is being debated in the Ohio House, will be a significant factor.

"What are the effects of Senate Bill 5 and how is this going to affect us? ... We can't get real specific" until a final version of the bill is acted on by the legislature, Lucas said. "But we have to address (the issue) of sustainability."

Additional cuts include reducing staff professional development (saving $80,000), restructuring special program services (saving $250,000), eliminating random drug testing in the high schools (saving $180,000), limiting transportation to a 50-mile radius for athletic contests (saving $80,000), and reducing printing and postage use (saving $40,000).

The proposed two-year state budget by Gov. John Kasich also was discussed at the meeting. The state faces an $8-billion deficit and school districts are poring over the proposed budget to determine its impact. On its face, the budget does not propose cutbacks in basic state aid, but small increases. However, districts still face funding losses and the budget must be approved by the legislature by June 30.

"I want to stress again the importance the levy has, no matter what happens with the state budget," board president Julie Wagner Feasel said.

Before the board meeting, treasurer Becky Jenkins said while the district might not lose basic state aid, other state money may be lost. Olentangy is receiving about $7.1-million this fiscal year in basic state aid. The district could lose $4.6-million in tangible personal property tax reimbursement from the state during the next two fiscal years, she said.

"There's not enough detail in his budget to know" the full impact yet, Jenkins said.

Board member Scott Galloway had advised a conservative approach to the district's five-year financial forecast, factoring in a 30-percent reduction in state aid. On March 16, he said he is satisfied with Olentangy's approach to its financial situation.

"I'm pleased with what we've done here," he said. "We've made appropriate steps knowing what was coming."

The current fiscal year, which ends June 30, projects Olentangy will have $141.5-million in revenue and $144.3-million in expenditures. Because of carryover money, the district would begin fiscal year 2012 with a $24.6-million cash balance. However, without new money, that cash balance drops to about $6 million by fiscal year 2013.

Wagner Feasel noted expenditures already outpace revenues.

The 7.9-mill levy, if approved, would raise about $25.5-million a year and cost a homeowner an additional $241.94 annually for each $100,000 of assessed residential valuation. The no-new-millage bond issue would raise about $24.4-million.

If the levy fails, the district will have to make about $11.4-million in cuts and cost-savings measures next school year. As many as 124 staff positions could be cut.

After the board meeting, Lucas said he thinks he and district officials have done a good job explaining the levy to the community. While he acknowledged no large-scale informational community meetings were held, school officials have participated in 188 meetings during recent months, including small gatherings of 15 to 20 people in a home to between 200 and 250 people at several booster club meetings at high schools.