BELLBROOK — Voters in the Bellbrook-Sugarcreek School District will be asked to approve a levy in November.
During a special meeting Tuesday morning, board members approved the first of two necessary resolutions to place a 5.7 mill property tax levy on the general election ballot. It will be the third time the cash-strapped district has tried to pass a levy to help fund the district.
Tuesday’s resolution declared the necessity of levying the tax and requested Greene County Auditor David Graham to certify the amount the levy will raise. According to a calculation chart provided by Graham, if passed, the continuing levy will cost the owner of a $100,000 home approximately $16 per month.
The May five-year forecast shows the district to have a balance of $414,000 in fiscal year 2022 and a negative balance of $2.73 million in FY23. The district has made cuts totalling $4.8 million since 2018 — including the reduction of staff members and the elimination of 85 supplemental contracts — and lost $659,000 in state funding for the fiscal year that ended Tuesday. It did recoup about half of that in CARES Act funding.
District officials are also bracing for a 10 percent reduction in state funding for the new fiscal year. And while the district does expect to have funding return to its pre-COVID level in the future, officials don’t anticipate getting an increase.
“The state is not going to bail us out,” Superintendent Dr. Doug Cozad said. “They’re actually going the other way. We don’t have a spending problem. We have a revenue problem.”
At a previous meeting, board members and administrators were undecided as to whether to pursue an emergency levy — which will raise a specific amount of money for five years — or a continuing levy — which doesn’t end. The recommendation from Cozad and District Treasurer Kevin Liming was the continuing levy, the same as in March.
Cozad said he had a “good feeling” the levy was going to pass in March until the election was postponed the night before.
“We were crescendoing at the right time,” he said, adding that the gap between yes and no votes was decreased between the 2019 and 2020 elections.
Board member Kevin Price, in casting the lone no vote, felt the emergency levy was the right route given the dire financial situation.
“Emergency is a term everyone can understand,” he said. “I think they’ll get it.”
He said with a continuing levy the district is “rolling the dice” and “asking for trouble.”
Board member Mary Frantz favored the continuing levy to make sure revenue flows in after an emergency levy would end.
“If we don’t have this money in five years we’re really going to be in trouble,” she said.
Board president David Carpenter agreed, saying a limited or emergency levy would get a few additional votes but it wouldn’t make a difference and not fix the problem down the road.
The next resolution will in essence place the issue on the ballot.