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More cuts coming for Bellbrook schools


BELLBROOK — The Bellbrook-Sugarcreek School District will be trimming its operating budget by an additional $1.28 million in response to the failure of the March primary levy.

By slightly more than 300 votes, the 5.7-mill levy — that would have raised around $3.3 million annually — was defeated by district voters. That outcome triggered Phase IV reductions, which were discussed by board members and the administration during a virtual meeting earlier this week.

Those cuts, slated for the 2021-22 school year, will bring the total amount of cuts to $4.8 million since 2018.

“Extremely disappointed in the outcome there,” Superintendent Dr. Doug Cozad told the board, adding that the levy was to be a “lifeline” for the district.

Instead, the district will eliminate high school busing, one teacher in the high school social studies department, the contract with the career center for a biomed program, sixth grade art, and art and STEM classes at Bell Creek and Stephen Bell.

The district will also reduce staff development, delay curriculum adoptions in math and science, non-renew select electronic subscriptions, and a contract with communications consultant Allerton Hill.

In addition, 85 paid supplemental contracts — including class advisors, newspaper advisor, Key Club advisor, Air Force Junior ROTC Color Guard, jazz band/pep band director, science fair, and myriad high school non-varsity coaches —will not be renewed.

Cozad said with the elimination of the supplementals, comes the elimination of those activities and teams as well.

“Losing good staff,” Cozad said.

Phase III cuts were announced prior to the election and would be implemented regardless of the outcome. Those included the elimination of world language offerings at the middle school, an increase in sports participation fees from $150 to $200, an increase in all-day, everyday kindergarten by $900 annually and the elimination of one high school English position, reducing electives and increasing class sizes.

Phase I and II, which began after the failure of the May 2019 ballot issue, have totaled more than $2.3 million and include the reduction of 20 staff positions, half of which were teaching positions. The district also introduced a transportation ineligibility zone, which will now be trimmed back to the two-mile state minimum.

Before that, the district made staff reductions in summer 2018.

Despite the cuts, the district is still facing deficit spending by the end of fiscal year 2023, where the finances will be in the red by more than $2.7 million. The cash balance after fiscal year 2022 is expected to be $414,196, which would trigger the district being placed on fiscal caution by the state board of education, according to district officials.

“The finances are, they’re dire,” Cozad said.

Shortly after the primary, Gov. Mike DeWine announced budget cuts, which included schools. Bellbrook’s funding was reduced by $659,000 for May and June, and District Treasurer Kevin Liming told the board the district can anticipate 10 percent more in cuts for next school year.

The reductions cost the district even more, as it had to make payments to the teacher and employee retirement systems. Normally those payments are deducted from the state funding, Liming said.

Coronavirus-related expenses could also increase next school year if students are permitted back in the buildings.

“When a levy fails, the needs do not go away with that failure,” Cozad said after the election results became official. “Rather, they worsen. The high-quality educational experience that our children deserve is now compromised.”

During this week’s meeting, board member Kevin Price said state officials had to know the cuts were coming and citizens should have known before casting their votes, adding it was “derelict” to do that.

He encouraged residents to voice their displeasure with state officials and perhaps they will dip into the $2.4 billion the state has in reserve.

By Scott Halasz

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Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.