Bellbrook likely to try for another levy

By Scott Halasz - [email protected]

BELLBROOK — Bellbrook voters will likely be asked to pass a school levy in November.

The district’s board of education will meet in special session at 8 a.m. Tuesday, June 30 and is expected to decide between an emergency levy and a continuing levy to help fund the cash-strapped district. Levies in May 2019 and this past March failed, causing the district to implement myriad cuts.

Those cuts, slated for the 2021-22 school year, will bring the total amount of cuts to $4.8 million since 2018. In addition, the district lost $659,000 in state funding for May and June and is anticipating another 10 percent reduction for next school year, according to District Treasurer Kevin Liming.

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.

Board members were somewhat undecided as to whether to pursue the emergency levy — which will raise a specific amount of money for five years — or a continuing levy — which doesn’t end.

“In five years we’re going to need more money,” board member Mary Frantz said during a recent meeting. “If we lose this money in five years where would we be? Down the road it’s going to be tough to renew it.”

Board member Kevin Price said the district needs to stress that it’s a dire situation and a continuing levy isn’t the route to go.

“The community needs to understand … this is an emergency. We are in a crisis,” he said. Price agreed that renewing it down the road could be tough, but he said the district needs to deal with the emergency at hand.

“Nearest fire, as we say in the military,” he said.

The March levy, which lost by slightly more than 300 votes, would have raised around $3.3 million annually. That outcome triggered Phase IV reductions, which included the elimination of high school busing, one teacher in the high school social studies department, 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.

Phase III cuts were announced prior to the election and would have been implemented regardless of the election 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 fees 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 included 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.

The state 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.

By Scott Halasz

[email protected]

Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.

Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.