A recently approved operating levy will not save the school district from budget cuts.

A recently approved operating levy will not save the school district from budget cuts.

In fact, the Worthington Board of Education must find ways to reduce spending or voters will face "a levy of significant size" in the near future, according to Superintendent of Schools Melissa Conrath.

The board was scheduled to begin grappling with budget reduction possibilities at a meeting set for Monday night, and the public will be invited to hear about the district's financial challenges and offer input at a public forum tentatively set for January.

Voters approved a 6.9-mill incremental operating levy in November after defeating a 7.5-mill levy last May.

When the board scaled back the size of the levy following the May defeat, it committed itself to reduce spending.

Last summer, the estimated amount to be reduced was announced as $4-million by the end of 2013.

That changed when Worthington teachers agreed to take a zero-percent increase in base salary in 2012.

"Since July, that deficit has been balanced," district treasurer Jeff McCuen said on Monday.

A new five-year forecast has not been completed, but McCuen said that, with money from the levy and the teachers' contract agreement, he currently projects a $500,000 surplus at the end of 2013.

With no further reductions in spending, that would mean voters would face another operating levy in 2012 or earlier.

Add in the uncertainty of state funding and the coming phase-out of the state's reimbursement to the district of funds lost because of the elimination of the business tangible tax, and finding a way to cut spending is the only responsible route the board can take, Conrath said.

She declined to address two of the most controversial budget reduction areas that were discussed by the board last summer.

One would be the closing of a middle school and/or changes to the middle school program.

The other is the change of the configuration of elementary schools to schools serving grades kindergarten through grade three or four and grades four or five through six.

Both of those options are not popular with at least some parents.

"We need to look at all aspects of the district and identify areas we need to consider further," she said.

The district will consider hiring state auditors to do a performance audit of the district to find out where cuts could be made to become more cost effective, she said.