Facing up to $15-million in cuts in the next year, Reynoldsburg schools Superintendent Steve Dackin said the district's future rests on what happens with the state budget and whether a May levy is passed.

Facing up to $15-million in cuts in the next year, Reynoldsburg schools Superintendent Steve Dackin said the district's future rests on what happens with the state budget and whether a May levy is passed.

"Let me make this real: If it comes to the $15-million in reductions, kids lose all art, music and physical education, K through 8," Dackin said last week.

He said the list of potential cuts is full of "a lot of moving parts," the first being yet-to-be announced losses in state allocations to education that could be as high as 25 percent.

"The second moving part is, we haven't determined our millage amount for May that millage amount also will affect the projected list of reductions," he said.

He said state officials probably won't reveal the actual percentage in expected funding cuts until after the Feb. 19 deadline for school districts to file levy requests for the May ballot. The Reynoldsburg school board's next regular meeting is scheduled for Feb. 17.

Dackin said the district will host a town meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 9, in the high school cafeteria. Letters announcing the meeting are being sent out to everyone in the community.

"We have a serious dilemma, and I think what we're interested in doing is going out to the community to say 'help us think through this dilemma, here's what's going on' and what you think we ought to do?'" he said.

If the state reduces its allocations to schools by 25 percent, Dackin said that would mean a loss of $6.7-million for Reynoldsburg.

"By the first week of February, we might have a sense what the governor's priorities are, but it isn't a done deal until it goes through the legislative process," he said. "Right now, I'm projecting a 15-percent cut simply based on information that many of the state organizations, like the Ohio School Boards Association, have sent out to the schools."

He said the 15-percent cut would amount to a loss of about $4-million for the district for the next school year -- but that does not include any other budget adjustments that would happen if a May levy is rejected.

A loss at the polls this spring could bring an additional $11-million in cuts, he said.

"I said the situation would be draconian but now I'm moving that to a new word -- catastrophic," he said.

The district announced in December it would cut $387,000 from its budget. Dackin said more major cuts are likely on the horizon.

"We probably would begin a series of reductions in force, and we'll have to provide 30-day notices to our employees," he said. "I anticipate we could do that as soon as February, but we don't have to."

Dackin said any of his recommendations would appear on the board's consent agenda for discussion or action probably as soon as its next meeting on Feb. 17.

Possibilities for reaching $15-million worth of cuts -- if that is the amount needed -- include laying off between 32 and 94 staff positions, including 44 core teachers; eliminating art, physical education and music in K-8 classes, cutting administration days and central office support staff hours and days; eliminating foreign language courses in the junior high and high school; having athletics/extracurricular activities become self-funding or eliminated.

Other possibilities include reducing transportation to state minimum standards, including limits on busing for K-6 students and none for high school students.

"If you live within two miles of your school, K-8, you're going to have to walk to school or find a way to get to school and high school kids will have to find a way to get there," Dackin said. "They'll lose the ability to participate in activities without a huge price tag, and the schools will also have to close early I'm telling you, we're heading to a substandard school district."

He said officials are still looking at options internally that could influence any budget cuts. An administrative wage freeze will go into effect next year, regardless of whether a May levy is passed, and Dackin said he has asked the teachers union to consider concessions as well.

He reiterated that the district's budget actions will depend on what happens at the state level and on whether a May levy is approved.

"That's also why we want to go out to our community and say 'here is our dilemma if you tell us you think a 10-mill levy is too much, then we'll have to come up with a list of things we'll have to cut, even if we pass a 10-mill levy," he said.

Dackin said athletics, music and art programs "define school in our culture." "It isn't just reading, writing and arithmetic -- and don't get me wrong, those are very, very important -- but it isn't just that. In our district, if we have to cut $15-million, those things go away, and they're not going to come back how do you recoup $15-million?" he asked.