BELLBROOK — Voters in the Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Local School District again said no to a new property tax to help fund the district.

By a 3,334 to 3,028 vote, the 5.7-mill operating levy failed, according to official results of the March 17 primary released by the board of elections. Had it passed, the levy would have raised a little more than $3.3 million annually and would have helped fund the district’s day-to-day operations, such as staffing, utilities, transportation and supplies. The owners of a $100,000 home would have paid approximately $16.60 per month.

“We appreciate the work done by so many to help inform voters,” Superintendent Dr. Doug Cozad said in a release. “While this is not the outcome that we believe best serves students and the needs facing our schools, we will do our part to honor the vote. The fiscal reality; however, is that we simply cannot continue to make reductions without seriously impacting the quality of our students’ educational experience, and unfortunately, that is where we are right now.”

Following the failure of the May 2019 ballot issue, the Bellbrook-Sugarcreek School District Board of Education and district leadership team began identifying additional cuts and reductions that the district would have to make. Staff reductions in summer 2018 before the May 2019 ballot issue and Phase I and II after the failure of the ballot issue have totaled more than $2.3 million and include the reduction of 20 staff positions, half of which were teaching positions. Phase III cuts were to begin in the 2020-21 school year.

The latest rejection will force the district to face nearly $2.5 million in Phase IV cuts and reductions over the next two years, district officials said.

“This is an incredibly disappointing outcome that will not only hurt our families and students but also have a negative impact in multiple ways for the community as a whole,” Board President David Carpenter said in a press release.

The district last passed an operating levy in 2015. Its five-year forecast in November 2019 projected an almost $1.9 million deficit in the 2021-22 school year.

Additionally, due to the recent financial cutbacks at the state level, the district’s state funding was reduced by $659,000 — about 11 percent of the district’s funding from the state — for the 2019-20 school year. Officials anticipate a similar reduction for the next school year. If this does occur, this amounts to an almost cumulative $1.3 million in reductions in funding from the state in the years 2019-2021, the district said. Revenue for Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Schools is around $30 million, of which around $6 million is funded by the state, according to the release.

“Ultimately, it is up to our community to determine the type of schools it wants and, with what we are facing financially, that is directly affected by the outcome at the ballot box,” Cozad said. “Our district budget is already so lean that cuts are already hitting the classroom and the student experience. There is no easy way to say it — without the additional funds the district would have received through the passage of this levy, the reductions we now have to implement will be devastating.”

By Scott Halasz

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Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.