After one year on the job, Reynoldsburg schools Superintendent Steve Dackin said his biggest attention is always on student performance, but getting revenue into the district remains a major concern.

After one year on the job, Reynoldsburg schools Superintendent Steve Dackin said his biggest attention is always on student performance, but getting revenue into the district remains a major concern.

Another big focus for 2009 will be continuing to plan for the renovations to existing school buildings and construction of two new buildings off Summit Road, he said.

Passage of a bond issue in March was important "because that created a foundation for this community that will be here forever," Dackin said. "It's kind of a legacy for the community that it invested in itself to ensure that every child who goes to school in Reynoldsburg will go to a building that is either newly renovated with current standards and or new.

"The second big deal is we met the excellent rating for the 2007-2008 school year and that is a testimonial to great teaching in this district and support staff and to the leadership at each building that put conditions in place so kids can learn," he said.

"And we're doing that at a time when we have less money coming into the district," he noted. "We have less people that are available to do those things, and yet we persevered, and our kids are continuing to get a high level of education."

Dackin has dedicated14 years of his career to the Reynoldsburg school system. When he took over as superintendent on Jan. 1, 2008 from retired superintendent Richard Ross, he kept his commitments to evaluate the district's goals and hit the ground running to get a $56-million bond issue and 0.5-mill tax levy passed in March.

Accomplishing that meant the district could claim an additional $55-million in Ohio School Facilities Commission funds to build a new high school and a seventh elementary school, plus renovate existing facilities.

Dackin said the next goal was to find out if residents wanted a one- or two-high-school identity.

"That was my first decision I was faced with -- to make a promise to the community to go out to them and ask which do they want, and we did it with Reynoldsburg Reach," he said.

The Reynoldsburg Reach initiative involved 31 meetings in 60 days with members of the community, teachers and students, all of whom provided feedback on what they wanted the new high school to be like. Data collected from people who participated in the Reynoldsburg Reach meetings indicated that the community wants to maintain a one-high-school identity.

"When you look at our enrollment projections from 2001, it was pretty clear we were going to grow so now in the high school we have 2,100 kids in a space designed for 1,289," Dackin said. "Even if we were to start losing enrollment, we're still overcrowded at the high school, so we need a second facility to put high school kids."

The negative event for Dackin in his first year as superintendent was voter rejection of a 6.9-mill operating levy Nov. 4.

Had it passed, the district could have started to collect funds generated by the levy in January and the 6.9-mills would have generated $5.28-million annually for the next three years.

Dackin said the district will go back on the ballot in May, but it's possible that up to $10-million worth of budget cuts may be needed next year.

"Two things we now need to look at are, first, how we can reduce expenditures for this school year, and more importantly, identify what needs to be cut for the following school year," he said.

He said before school officials go back to the voters in May, they need to compile a list of cuts amounting to between $4-million and $6-million for the next fiscal year, which starts in July 2009.

"Our community has always stepped up when the district needed it and I am absolutely convinced that when we come out for a request in May, that this community will step up and support its schools," Dackin said. "I believe that."

Because the November levy failed, Dackin said the district now has to identify things that can't continue due to a lack of money.

"It puts me and the entire organization in a challenge, and I argue it puts the community in a challenge, because if the levy doesn't pass in May, we will have to cut $10-million in programs and services in addition to the $6-million we've already cut over the last three years," he said.

That total -- $16-million -- amounts to 27 percent of all district expenditures, he said.

Dackin said everything is on the table when it comes to deciding how the district will balance its books.

"In the end, we still have to run a district that accomplishes the goals that the board of education set forth," Dackin said. "Those goals are, to hit the excellent standard every year, that schools are safe and productive places for kids to learn and that we manage the money that's given to us by our public in a fiscally responsible manner.

"Whatever the resources the community gives me, I will take them and I will challenge myself and our staff to commit to meeting those goals," he said.

If the operating levy does pass in May, Dackin said, district officials still will have to cut $3-million from next year's budget because they won't be able to collect the new operating money until January 2010. And that doesn't take into account any loss of funds from the state, which he said provides 51 percent of the district's operating revenue.

"It's been 12 years since an operating levy was passed, and people need to understand that we can't use bond issue money as operating money," Dackin said.

There has been no decision yet on how big May's levy request will be, but Dackin said the amount likely will be between 6.9 and 13 mills.

"We've been cutting our expenditures over the last three years. During that time period, we did not fill a whole lot of positions that became open," he said.

The list includes 48 teaching positions, eight classified and 11 administrative jobs that were not filled when people retired or resigned.

Despite the setbacks, Dackin said he enjoys being superintendent.

"It is an awesome responsibility but it's a responsibility I have really prepared for all of my life and I have wanted to do it here," he said. It's an awesome responsibility because the learning of 6,700 kids in this community depends on the school system being a robust place for kids to learn, and I'm grateful that I have a great supporting cast," he said.