Westerville voters likely will see a school levy on the November ballot, but it remains to be seen what that tax will look like.

Westerville voters likely will see a school levy on the November ballot, but it remains to be seen what that tax will look like.

The Westerville Board of Education approved five levy options at its July 25 meeting. Those options will be sent to the Franklin and Delaware county auditors for certification later this week. The board then will vote, likely at its Aug. 8 meeting, to select a levy to be sent to the county boards of elections for the Nov. 8 ballot.

The board passed resolutions to have a 1-percent earned-income tax and a 7.9-mill property tax levy certified by the county auditors.

The 7.9-mill property tax would cost voters an additional $242 annually per $100,000 of assessed property value.

The earned-income tax would apply to anyone living within the Westerville City School District but would not be applied to Social Security, pension or investment income.

The remaining three levy options approved for certification by the board would take advantage of a type of levy recently approved by the state. They would combine an income tax with a property tax into one issue on the ballot.

Those options included:

A 0.5-percent earned-income tax and a $10-million property-tax levy, which would be about 3.9 mills.

A 0.75-percent earned-income tax and a $7.3-million property tax, which would be about 2.9 mills.

A 0.75-percent earned-income tax and $5-million property tax, which would be about 1.9 mills.

All of the options aim to close a nearly $3-million budget shortfall at the end of this fiscal year, which is expected to balloon to a nearly $20-million budget shortfall by the end of fiscal year 2013.

The board had to vote to send levy options to the county auditors for certification by July 29. Members said they chose to approve several options for certification to give themselves more time to mull over which levy they will seek in November.

"We are facing a deadline, so bringing these (multiple) resolutions forward and approving different resolutions will allow for further discussion," board president Kristi Robbins said.

To appear on the Nov. 8 ballot, the board must send a levy to the boards of election by Aug. 10.

Even with a levy, board members acknowledged that they will need to make approximately $16-million in budget cuts to keep the Westerville district financially solvent through the end of fiscal year 2015.

With all of the levy options presented, the district still would see deficits of between $9 million and $12 million by the end of fiscal year 2015. Board member Kevin Hoffman said his goal would be to balance cuts and a levy to generate a cash balance of about $5 million by the end of that year.

"There needs to be shared sacrifice here," balancing a levy and cuts, Hoffman said.

Superintendent Dan Good said the district is running so efficiently that any cuts will be felt by staff, students and parents.

"Any reductions are significant reductions at this point," Good told the board. "I want to make sure every board member understands" how severe up to $16-million reductions would be.

Several residents spoke during the public-comment portion of the meeting, some supporting the decision to seek a levy and others asking for deeper cuts to avoid taxing residents more.

Nancy McFarland said she thinks the district already is running efficiently, earning the highest marks on state report cards while paying teachers less and spending less per pupil than other central Ohio school districts.

"It worries me in the direction that our community is going with our schools," McFarland said. "Please consider not cutting another dime in this school district."

John Gilmartin said he's supported school levies in the past, but his property taxes have risen from about $3,800 a year when he moved to the district eight years ago to about $4,800.

If another property-tax levy is approved, his taxes would climb to about $5,800 a year, he said.

"That's not bad if you're making $100,000 a year, but that's 20 percent of my pension income. We used to think, don't spend more than 25 percent of your income on your home loan," he said. "I would urge you - not only for ourselves, we'll get by - but for other retired people, think of the amount of money."