Q: What is on the March 17, 2020 ballot for Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Schools?
A: A 5.7-mill operating levy.
Q: What will these dollars fund?
A: An operating levy helps fund the day-to-day operations of the district, such as staffing, utilities, transportation, maintenance and supplies.
Q: How much money will this operating levy generate for Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Schools?
A: This operating levy will generate approximately $3.3 million annually for the school district and will help the district to continue providing the level of services and programs that it currently offers.
Q: How much would this levy cost me?
A: If passed, the levy would cost residents approximately $16.60 per month $100,000 appraised market value per the county auditor’s website. To find out what that means for your home, visit https://www.co.greene.oh.us/366/Auditor and go to Property Search.
Q: How did the Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Board of Education decide on the amount needed?
A: During the November 2019 board meeting, the board members considered several levy options. Based on the facts and figures available at that point in time and with the $2.3 million in cuts and reductions the district has already made, the board ultimately settled on the lowest possible scenario for the March ballot issue - a 5.7-mill operating levy - that would allow the district to be in the black as projected by the most recent five-year forecast. The district is diligent about managing the budget in an open and transparent manner, operating a lean budget while keeping expenses to a minimum, and constantly looking for ways to keep expenses as low as possible.
Q: What happens if the levy passes?
A: If the levy passes, we can continue to provide the excellent experience we do for our students, families and staff. It will also provide much-needed financial stability for our schools and prevent deeper cuts that would have a direct, negative impact on the education we can offer to our learners.
Q: What will happen if the levy does not pass?
A: The single most important issue facing our schools right now is our budget. The district has cut and reduced the budget and continues to operate on fewer and fewer dollars. If the levy fails in March, then the district will have to make even more cut and reductions districtwide. Reductions may include a reduction in specials or electives being offered, increases in class sizes due to further staff reductions, further reductions in transportation services, increases in fees, reductions in sports and/or extracurriculars, and an overall reduction in services and supports.
Q: Aren’t cuts just a threat?
A: No. By law, if schools show a deficit by year two in a financial forecast, which our district does, then the district must present a plan to balance the budget. This includes identifying a list of cuts that will be enacted by the school district in order to eliminate any deficit in the event that a levy does not pass.
Our budget is so lean that cuts are already hitting the classroom and the student experience; we cannot continue to make reductions without seriously impacting the quality of our students’ educational experience.
Moreover, this is not a spending issue, this is a revenue issue. After we implement Phase II reductions, with an already lean budget, introducing more reductions be will drastically change the landscape of our school district and make a detrimental impact to the quality of education we offer.
Q: Hasn’t the district already made a lot of cuts over the past couple of years?
A: Yes. Budget reductions in the summer of 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 are teaching positions.
Here is a complete overview of the more than $2.3 million in reductions that have been made:
In the summer of 2018, the district made $500,000 in budget reductions. This included four teaching positions, a part-time mechanic, and a reduction in budgets in the areas of technology and building operations.
After the levy failure in May 2019, the district announced that it would make $813,000 in Phase I budget reductions.
The district continued to look for cost savings over the summer, making an additional $168,000 in reductions for the 2019-20 school year.
Phase I and additional reductions in the summer of 2019 included transportation; postponing the purchase of school buses; reduction of technology and educational aides; elimination of four teaching positions and a custodial position, as well as cafeteria aide positions at Bellbrook Middle School; insurance cost savings, resulting in diminished insurance benefits for all staff, and a reduction in budgets in the areas of technology, building operations and athletics.
During the November 2019 board meeting - after deliberation and input from the district leadership team, and while working closely with the teachers association - the Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Schools Board of Education adopted Phase II reductions, which total nearly $1 million. This phase of reductions will go into effect for the 2020-21 school year and includes a 0% salary increase for the 2020-21 school year for teachers, administrators and non-union staff and the elimination of 3-5 staff positions through attrition.
Q: Isn’t the district getting enough funding from the state?
A: Like many school districts in Ohio, supporting our local schools falls on the shoulders of local taxpayers as the state continues to introduce mandates and requirements. Only 27% of the Bellbrook-Sugarcreek School District budget comes from the state - compared to the state average of 44% - and 6% comes from federal funds; the remaining is from locally-generated revenue.
Additionally, due to constraints, such as House Bill 920, which essentially keeps school tax collection flat by limiting inflationary growth on taxes, we are stuck in a cycle like the majority of public schools in our state - one in which Ohio schools need to renew or replace levies every few years because school taxes do not increase when home values increase, forcing the total amount collected by the school district on an existing levy to stay essentially the same.
Q: If the district needs the money so badly, why didn’t the district go back on the ballot in November 2019?
A: During the summer after the loss at the ballot in May 2019, the board of education made the unanimous decision to postpone placing an issue on the ballot until 2020, which allowed the district time to evaluate and reduce the budget through phases of reductions and continue to get feedback from the community. Some of the feedback that district leadership heard from the community was that residents wanted the district to make more budget reductions before returning to the ballot. As a result, the district has made over $2.3 million in budget reductions between the summer of 2018 and Phase I and II reductions in 2019.
Q: I have heard that we should be paying district teachers less, that their salaries are too high. Is that true?
A: According to the data from the Ohio Department of Education, the average teacher salary for Bellbrook-Sugarcreek is higher than neighboring or similar districts but so is their years of experience, ranking 5th out of 21 comparable districts. This means that district students have access to more teacher expertise and more teachers who have been dedicated to the field for longer. Additionally, Bellbrook-Sugarcreek is proud to be a “destination district” not only for students and families, but for staff as well - with very little staff turnover, the district has reduced costs associated with onboarding and training new staff. Added to that, we send more dollars to the classroom and spend less on administration than most of our similar districts. In fact, we have fewer administrators than nearly all of our similar districts.
Q: I have heard a bit about the state report card. What outcomes did we see for Bellbrook-Sugarcreek on the latest report card?
A: Bellbrook-Sugarcreek is consistently ranked among the best locally and across the state. The district received a “B” on the 2019 State Report Card that was released in September The district’s graduation rate of 94.2% earned an “A” on the state report card, student attendance rate is 95.4%, and the number of 3rd graders that met the Third Grade Reading Guarantee was 100%. That being said, there are always areas of improvement and we are committed to providing the best possible experience for all of our learners. For more information about the state report card, visit https://reportcard.education.ohio.gov/.
Q: Can I vote before Election Day?
A: Yes. Anyone who is registered to vote in Ohio can cast their vote early at the Greene County Board of Elections Office at 551 Ledbetter Road, Xenia, OH 45385. Please check the Greene County Board of Elections website for more information: https://www.co.greene.oh.us/128/Board-of-Elections.
Early voting starts: February 19
Mailed absentee ballots must be postmarked no later than March 16.
Voters can drop off a completed absentee ballot at the Greene County Board of Elections Office until the polls close on March 17 (Election Day).
Q: How do I register to vote?
A: Go to voteohio.gov to register to vote. The deadline to register is February 18, 2020.
Q: Where do I vote?
A: To find your voting location, go to voteohio.gov. Polls are open from 6:30 a.m. - 7:30 p.m. on Election Day, which is Tuesday, March 17. Remember, this is also a presidential primary so polling locations may be busy – plan accordingly!
Q: What is required for the levy to pass?
A: Levies pass with a simple majority - 50% plus one vote.
Q: Who can I contact with additional questions?
A: We welcome any and all questions. Afterall, we want to make sure our residents make an informed decision based on facts. If you have additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact one of the following people:
Dr. Douglas Cozad, Superintendent: 937-848-5001 (option 5 then 2)
Mr. Kevin Liming, Treasurer: 937-848-5001 (option 5 then 3)
David A. Graham, Greene County Auditor: 937-562-5065
If you have a general question, please email info@@bss.k12.oh.us.