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More cuts coming to Bellbrook schools


BELLBROOK — The Bellbrook-Sugarcreek board of education approved another round of budget cuts Thursday and also gave the OK for others should the operating levy fail in the March primary.

The district is attempting to pass a 5.7 mil operating levy March 17, which would generate around $3.3 million annually beginning in 2021 and cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $16.60 a month.

Even if the levy passes, the district will cut more than $747,000 from its budget beginning in the 2020-21 school year. Cuts include eliminating STEP at Bell Creek Intermediate and eliminating one English position at the high school. The district will also increase sports participation fees from $150 to $200, and increase all-day, every-day kindergarten tuition by $900 annually.

“Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Local Schools is at a critical juncture and the single most important issue facing our schools right now is our budget,” Superintendent Dr. Douglas A. Cozad said in a release. “We are doing what we must to address our budget issues. Deciding on and making cuts is never easy, and these are never decisions that we take lightly. At the end of the day, any reductions hurt the overall experience that we provide to our residents and their children.”

The budget reductions come after a state performance audit, which recommended $11.5 million in cuts. The district’s five-year forecast in May 2019 projected a $1.5 million deficit in the 2020-21 school year, which along with the levy failure in May 2019, triggered the audit, according to district officials.

“This type of audit is designed to assist districts that are struggling financially to offer recommendations that can reduce costs and increase operational effectiveness,” Cozad said. “The reductions recommendations only focus on cutting expenditures and did not take into account any changes in revenue or any more under- or unfunded state mandates. Furthermore, due to an already lean budget, the auditors found it very challenging to find many areas to reduce without striking at the core of our schools and forever changing the well-rounded and high-caliber educational experience that our students and our community deserve.”

If the levy fails, additional cuts will total nearly $2.5 million over the next two years. Busing will be eliminated for the high school along with art and STEM at Bell Elementary and BCI, sixth-grade art, one high school social studies and English teaching position, one high school science position outsourced to the career center, two district librarian positions, and 85 supplemental and/or athletic positions across the district.

The district would also not renew electronic curriculum subscriptions and its contract with a communications consultant.

The district made more than $2.3 million in budget reductions between summer 2018 and Phase I and II reductions in 2019, according to a release from the district. These cuts included the reduction of 20 staff positions, half of which were teaching positions, in addition to a pay freeze for all employees in the 2020-21 school year.

“Without additional funds these reductions will be devastating; the need does not go away with levy failure,” Cozad said. “Even if the March levy does pass, finances in the district are still very perilous. We will continue to keep expenses to a minimum, while constantly looking for ways to seek efficiencies.”

By Scott Halasz

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Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.