Tiffin City Schools officials are asking voters to approve a continuing 4.9-mill operating levy on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Superintendent Donald Coletta said the levy would generate about $1.7 million and cost the owner of a $100,000 home $150 annually. Officials hope citizens again are willing to make an investment in the school district and children in the community, he said.
"For us, this is a levy of survival," he said. "It supports the very core values of what this district is all about."
Coletta said officials are at a crossroads in the school district's future, and a decision needs to be made about what they want it to look like in the future.
"Good public schools help kids get good jobs, good public schools support businesses in the community, good public schools support property values in a community, and good public schools are good for parochial schools, community schools and universities located in a community," he said.
The district has lost $2.6 million in revenue.
The tangible personal property tax, which is a tax on business inventory and equipment, was phased out, costing the district about $600,000 last year. Also, the state had an $8 billion deficit to correct for the two-year budget cycle that began July 1. Because the district receives 45 percent of its revenue from the state, it will lose $2 million in revenue from state support over the next two years, he said.
Coletta said the district having a tight budget, the five-year forecast having a deficit and the loss of $2.6 million has led to a "catastrophic" situation.
In the spring, Tiffin City Board of Education approved reductions totaling $1.25 million effective for this school year, and it resulted in the loss of 30 jobs. The board also approved additional cuts totaling $1.1 million for the 2012-13 school year.
"This will occur regardless of the outcome of the levy," Coletta said.
With the cuts effective next school year, the district is to lose another 16 jobs, bringing the total to 59 fewer jobs since 2007.
The district also is closing Clinton and Lincoln elementary schools, effective next school year. Average class sizes for grades K-5 are to increase from 23 students to 30.
"We sacrificed class size to save programs. ... I feel we do a great job meeting individual student needs," Coletta said.
According to information from the district, Tiffin City Schools has one of the lowest costs per pupil in Northern Ohio League, and out of 610 districts in Ohio, 515 spend more per pupil.
"We do stretch tax dollars in an efficient manner," Coletta said.
In 2004, the board of education was deciding whether to put a 5-mill levy or an 8-mill levy on the ballot. American Standard laid off employees around the same time the board had to make its decision.
"This, of course, forced the board to choose the 5-mill levy, although their projections indicated that an 8-mill levy was needed," Coletta said. "It was a good decision. The voters approved it, and the district was able to move forward."
The consequence of the decision, he said, is the district has been living with a small carryover balance for the last seven years.
"Because of the small carryover balance and because levies that have been approved cannot grow and major reductions take place from the state, we now have no choice but to go back to the ballot," he said.
Officials had anticipated a 5.9-mill levy request, but concessions made during negotiations and a wage freeze enabled them to drop the request to 4.9 mills.
Coletta said if the levy passes in November, the district can start collecting the money Jan. 1. If the levy fails in November but passes in the spring, the district wouldn't be able to start collecting until Jan. 1, 2013.
"The failure of the levy in November will impact the number of programs we will be able to provide our students," he said.
Coletta said if the levy fails, the district will be cutting programs and reducing quality. It will not be able to provide the individualization of instruction it provides now, he said.
"We do not have a list (of what would be cut) because everything will be on the table. ... We're to the point where, quite frankly, we're not sure what else to cut because we want to maintain the programs that make this district the excellent district that it is," he said.