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P-D-Y district will not seek levy on Nov. 3

DELTA, Ohio - "No. No. And absolutely no."

That's how Robin Rayfield summarizes the last three levy votes in the Pike-Delta-York school district, and the superintendent of schools said that means a second round of budget cuts is in the offing for the 2010-11 school year that is virtually certain to include layoffs.

On the heels of the resounding Aug. 4 defeat of a $900,000 emergency property levy request, the district board of education decided last week it will not go back to the ballot box in November to seek additional funds from Pike-Delta-York voters.

"We're going to do the best we can to manage with the resources that we have," Don Fogle, the school board president, said after the board meeting. "We'll be able to operate OK at the schools next year."

The five-year levy proposal, which was equal to about 6 mills, was defeated by nearly 3 to 1: 1,200 votes against it to just 475 in favor. That followed the May 5 defeat of an 0.75-percent earned-income tax, designed to raise about $900,000 per year, and the failure last November of a 4.1-mill property levy that had generated about $632,000 annually.

P-D-Y officials say their financial problem is a product of Ohio's phase-out of the tangible property tax on business and industrial equipment, which has cost the district several million dollars in annual revenue from two large steel plants.

The $900,000 in projected levy revenue was intended to plug about 60 percent of a $1.5 million budget deficit the district expects in 2010-2011, with the rest to be accomplished with spending cuts.

Mr. Rayfield said he expects to have to cut an additional $750,000 to $1 million in spending from the 2010-11 budget, for which he will submit a proposal to the school board next spring.

In jobs terms, the superintendent said, that means about eight to 10 positions, and he expects to recommend cuts in transportation and extracurricular activities.

Mr. Fogle said making-do with existing district resources will include drawing down Pike-Delta-York's fund balance "faster than we would have liked," and remarked that the financial issues that prompted the school board to request the taxes have not gone away.

"At some point, we are going to be on the ballot again," he said - perhaps in late 2010.

For the coming school year, the district reduced hours for five teachers, left a retirement vacancy unfilled, cut two paraprofessional positions, and eliminated the equivalent of 2 3/4 teachers from its contracted operations with the Fulton County Educational Service Center.

"We'll still have a nice program this year. The kids probably won't even notice the changes," Mr. Rayfield said. "But next year's cuts, they'll feel it. The kids will see a difference in the educational program."

And when those cuts start to hit home, the superintendent said, support for the district's levy requests may rebound.

"People tend to support levies when the alternative is unpalatable," Mr. Rayfield said.

Mr. Fogle added his belief that with three recent ballot issues, "levy fatigue" has set in in Delta, both for voters and the campaign teams that have promoted the schools' requests.

"I think the community support is there. It's just that these are tough times right now," he said.

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