Voters should expect to see a school district operating levy on the November 2012 ballot.

Voters should expect to see a school district operating levy on the November 2012 ballot.

“With the way funding is moving, I will be recommending something for the November ballot rather than the following year,” Worthington City Schools treasurer Jeff McCuen told the school board Oct. 24.

A no-new-taxes bond issue also needs to be on that ballot, he said.

The five-year financial forecast presented at the meeting showed a $4.6-million deficit in 2015.

The district most recently approved a levy in 2009.

Total revenues increased from $112.1 million in 2008 to $119.9 million in 2011. With no increase in taxes, revenues are expected to fall to $115.6 million in 2012 and continue to decrease yearly, unless a new levy is approved, McCuen said.

Expenditures, on the other hand, have and will continue to increase, he said. They increased from $106.5 million in 2008 to $115.1 million in 2011 and are projected to increase to $118 million in 2012 and $120.9 million in 2013.

In 2012, expenditures will be higher than revenues, and the difference will continue to widen unless spending is cut or more money is brought in, he said.

McCuen said the district would lose 3.22 percent of its property-tax revenues because of the recent reappraisal by the Franklin County auditor. That is not evident in the budget, which shows a loss of $1.3 million (1.7 percent) in 2012 but a rebound in 2013.

In fact, the budget document shows real estate taxes increasing from $49.7 million in 2007 to $76.5 million in 2011, $75.2 million in 2012 and $77.6-million in 2013.

The loss of tangible-personal-property-tax reimbursements continues to hurt the bottom line. The state canceled that tax several years ago but promised to reimburse the district, which was hit hard.

The TPPT reimbursement, however, has decreased from $14.6 million in 2007 to $3 million in 2011. The budget shows the revenue evening out at about $3 million a year through 2016.

New labor contracts provided for no salary increases in 2012 and 2013 but up to 1 percent in 2014. That is expected to save the district about $700,000 in 2012 and an additional $175,000 in the following year.

Health-insurance premiums will increase by 11.99 percent in 2012, 13 percent in 2013 and 11 percent in 2014.

The budget line item called purchased services also will increase because of the addition of nearly $350,000 a year for technology consultants and a new student-information system; $300,000 for software and materials; and $500,000 for routine maintenance.

Purchased-service expenditures will increase from $10.3 million in 2011, $12.3 million in 2012 and $13.3 million in 2013.

“The forecast, austere as it is, represents a best-case scenario with regard to spending under the current paradigm, and yet it is still calling for a levy in 2012 and another in 2015,” board president Marc Schare said.

He said the board needs a “backup plan” in case voters aren’t willing to approve a 2012 levy.

Board candidate John Hyre had harsher words.

“The district presently plans on playing levy roulette every three years, daring struggling taxpayers to reject a levy and impose draconian cuts on our children,” he said. “As a parent, that prospect frightens me.”

He suggested replacing line-item budgeting with zero-based budgeting. That would mean instead of automatically marking up existing costs annually, going back and reviewing each program it each year.

“Let’s stop basing planning on past trends that cannot be sustained,” Hyre said. “Instead let’s force the budget to justify itself, item by item.”