WAUSEON - Wauseon school officials have decided not to request a new operating levy on the May 5 ballot, but instead to cut spending to balance the budget.
"Now is not the time to go to the voters of our community to ask for additional operating funds," Marc Robinson, superintendent of the Wauseon Exempted Village School District, read from a prepared statement at a school board meeting last night.
Although the school board had planned as recently as September to place an operating levy on the spring ballot, Mr. Robinson said, "the last 90 to 120 days have been a game-changer."
The decision to cut spending instead of raising taxes, however, will result in "extremely difficult and painful" changes, he said.
"The fact remains that we must operate leaner. We must reduce expenditures so that we can buy some time to weather this economic downturn we are currently experiencing before going to our voters to ask for additional operational funding," the superintendent said.
How deep such cuts will need to be, and when they will be decided, was uncertain. Mr. Robinson said he could be ready to make recommendations to the school board as soon as its next scheduled meeting on Feb. 26.
The Wauseon district spent about $540,000 more during the 2007-08 school year than it received in revenue, and a bigger deficit is expected this school year. But so far the district has covered those losses from funds held in reserve.
The Wauseon school board will have a tax question on the May 5 ballot. During a special meeting last week, it voted to request renewal of a 1-mill permanent improvement levy. Revenue from that levy is not allowed to be used for operating expenses.
Mr. Robinson also emphasized that the operating budget is unrelated to the district's on-going construction program, through which it is building a new combined elementary and middle school, has renovated its primary school, and will renovate Wauseon High School.
"The construction project funding is a completely separate pot of money, and those funds cannot be used for operational expenses," the superintendent said after noting that during hearings before construction bonds were approved more than two years ago, he predicted future operating budget shortfalls.