Does the district need a 7.9-mill operating levy to be approved by voters in May, or could a levy as small as 6.5 mills carry the district for the next three years?

Does the district need a 7.9-mill operating levy to be approved by voters in May, or could a levy as small as 6.5 mills carry the district for the next three years?

And what happens if the levy fails? Will reductions occur immediately? And how deep will those cuts go if a follow-up levy is defeated in November?

With those and more questions yet to be answered, the Worthington Board of Education on Monday scheduled additional meetings to be held prior to the Feb. 19 deadline to file a levy request with the Franklin County Board of Elections.

A special meeting will be held Feb. 6 at 8:30 a.m., along with the regular board meeting on Feb. 9 and a special meeting on Feb. 16.

The board heard questions from residents at a public forum last Thursday night, but still has not ironed out its own issues surrounding the proposed May 5 operating levy.

Board treasurer Jeff McCuen has recommended that a 6.9-mill, 7.4-mill, or 7.9-mill levy be placed on the ballot.

Board member Marc Schare said a 7.9-mill levy does not seem justified unless one plays out the financial forecast through six years.

"If the board chooses to worry solely about the next three years, we could possibly go as low as 6.5 mills," he said on Monday.

McCuen's forecast shows the district facing an $18.7-million deficit at the end of the 2012 fiscal year. The ending surplus at the end of 2009 will be $24.3-million; at the end of 2010, $16.7-million; at the end of 2010, $3.1-million.

Board president David Bressman said the board must also be prepared to indicate the consequences of a levy failure.

"What happens if the May levy fails?" he asked. "What happens if the November levy fails?"

The board must also discuss what will be funded by money from the levy. For example, will renewal programs be funded, and will the levy be large enough to restore cuts made previously, such as the reduction of assistant coaches in some middle and high school athletic programs?

On Monday, four high school parents asked the board to restore assistant coaches to the football programs at both high schools.

"We are very far below any other school within our region and we're concerned about the safety of our kids," said Carin Cunningham, president of the Worthington Kilbourne High School Quarterback Club.

The student-to-coach ratio in Worthington is 16- or 17-to-1, while in other districts it is 7- to 9-1, said parent Tim Miller.

Coaches, the athletics director, and the board could be liable if a student is injured, he said, pointing out a Kentucky case in which a high school coach was indicted for reckless homicide following the death of a player.

A district committee is in the process of looking at all co-curricular activities. A report is due March 1.

The committee is looking at equity issues, safety, and participation, said administrator Jim McElligott.

The board on Monday also voted to not change its scheduled meetings to Tuesdays, as was discussed at a previous meeting.

The change had been considered because both the board and Worthington City Council meet on Monday.

"I am concerned about Tuesday nights since the papers have Tuesday deadlines and our community does look to the papers to see what is happening," said board member Jennifer Best.

Several board meetings will begin at 6:30 rather than 7:30 p.m. to allow more discussion, and several Friday morning meetings will be held in the school buildings beginning next fall.