Operating Levy on November 3, 2020 Ballot
Q: What is on the November 3, 2020 ballot for Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Schools?
A: A 5.7 mill continuing operating levy.
Q: How much money will this operating levy generate for Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Schools?
A: This operating levy will generate approximately $3,322,000 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 $16.63 per month or $199.50 per year for $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: Why is this levy needed now?
A: Passage of this levy will allow the school to stop even more devastating reductions to our budget. The financial situation of Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Schools continues to be an extremely critical issue facing our school district. Without additional funding, we simply cannot continue to make reductions that do not seriously impact the quality of our students’ educational experience, and unfortunately, that is where the district is right now. Since 2018, and following the failure of the May 2019 and March 2020 ballot issues, the Bellbrook-Sugarcreek School District Board of Education has implemented 4 phases of reductions that total over $4.8 million. The Phase III and IV reductions that go into effect for the 2020-21 school year include 13 staff positions that the district eliminated due to the levy failure and in light of current district finances. This brings the number of positions that have been reduced in the district since 2018 to 33, which is over 11% of district staff. Further, 85 supplemental positions had to be eliminated resulting in losses impacting sports teams, middle school play, Science Fair, high school clubs, and Pep Band.
Q: What does an operating levy fund?
A: An operating levy helps fund the day-to-day operations of the district, such as staffing, utilities, transportation, maintenance, and supplies. It will prevent further devastating reductions to the school district.
Q: How did the Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Board of Education decide on the amount needed?
A: During the June and July 2020 board meetings, the board members discussed and considered several levy options. Based on the facts and figures available at that point in time, the two past levy failures, the $4.8 million in cuts and reductions the district has already made, the $353,127 in net state reductions, and the possible reinstatement of past district reductions, the board ultimately settled on the lowest possible scenario for the November ballot issue - a 5.7 mill continuing operating levy - that would allow the district to be in the black at the end of 5 years. 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 impact will reappraisal have on my taxes?
A: If the average reappraisal value in our district goes up 11%, that does not mean your taxes go up 11%. On about 88% of tax bill (this is the voted or effective millage), you will only see an increase if your value went up more than 11%.
Whatever % the value of your property increased, is the % your taxes will increase on your inside millage, which is about 12% of your tax bill.
Your taxes do not go up by the same % as your property value increases.
The County has built a property tax estimator that appears on the www.co.greene.oh.us/reval page. This will allow people to see what their taxes are projected to be BEFORE the tax credits are applied. The tax credit issue is important because if someone compares their taxes that they paid in 2020 to their projected 2021 from the tax estimator they WON’T BE COMPARING LIKE ITEMS So they would HAVE TO LOOK AT THEIR TAX BILL TO SEE WHAT THEIR TAXES WERE LAST YEAR BEFORE CREDITS.
Q: What impact will reappraisal have on the amount of money the school district receives?
A: The district only receives additional money from reappraisals on the inside millage (about 12% of tax bill). It does not receive any additional money from the voted millage. The district receives very little money from the reappraisal.
Q: Isn’t the district getting enough funding from the state?
A: Actually this spring, we've had a net loss of state revenue of approximately $1,013,000 for May 2020 through June 2021. Over the years the district has seen inflationary increases that are outside its control, including unfunded and underfunded state mandates, in addition to an increase in the cost of doing business. Until the reduction this year, district funding from the state had generally flatlined, with very few increases. 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: Hasn’t the district already made a lot of cuts over the past couple of years?
A: Yes. Since 2018, and following the failure of the May 2019 and March 2020 ballot issues, the Bellbrook-Sugarcreek School District Board of Education has implemented 4 phases of reductions that total over $4.8 million. The Phase III and IV reductions that go into effect for the 2020-21 school year include 13 staff positions that the district eliminated due to the levy failure and in light of current district finances. This brings the number of positions that have been reduced in the district since 2018 to 33, which is over 10% of district staff. Further, 85 supplemental positions had to be eliminated resulting in losses impacting sports teams, middle school play, BHS Science Fair, high school clubs, and Pep Band.
Here is an overview of the more than $4.8 million in reductions that have been made:
Summer of 2018 Reductions, 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.
Phase I and additional reductions-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. Reductions include 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.
Phase II Reductions-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.
Phase III Reductions starts in the 2020-21 school year regardless of passage of the March 17 levy, totaling a cumulative $747,083 over the next two years: these included: STEP (the gifted pull-out program) at BCI, Eliminate world language offerings at BMS, Eliminate 1 English position at BHS, Increase sports participation fees from $150 to $200, $50 of marching band/color guard/winterguard/IPE fees will go to district budget, Increase All-Day / Every-Day kindergarten tuition by $900/yr, 2 open positions (2nd grade, 3rd grade) filled by involuntary transfers, No parking lot resurfacing or landscape mulch in summer 2020, Delay purchase of Chromebooks for 1 year.
Phase IV Reductions due to the failure of the March 17 levy, totaling a cumulative $1,678,917 over the next two years: Increase participation fees from $200 to $300 for high school, Eliminate busing for BHS, Reduce transportation to the minimum two-mile state requirement for BMS and BCI: Eliminate: Art at SB & BCI, STEM at SB & BCI, Keyboarding at BMS, Art for 6th grade at BMS, 1 Social Studies, 1 English, & 1 Science (outsource Biomed to GCCC) teachers at BHS, 2 librarian positions across the district, 85 paid supplementals and/or athletic positions across the district, Reduce district-wide staff development, Delay curriculum adoptions in math and science, Non-renew select electronic curriculum subscriptions, Non-renew contract with our communications consultant, Allerton Hill
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: Didn't the district have a performance audit completed by the state auditor's office just recently?
A:Yes, Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Schools worked collaboratively with the state of Ohio auditor's office on a performance audit. It's designed to assist districts that are struggling financially to offer recommendations that can reduce costs and increase operational effectiveness. The auditor's office presented the information at a board meeting on January 30, 2020. Due to an already lean budget, the auditors found it very challenging to find many areas to reduce without striking at the core of our schools and forever changing the well-rounded and high caliber educational experience our students deserve and our community expects. This audit was conducted at no cost to the school district and some of the major takeaways were School teachers and staff are paid less over their careers compared to local peer districts. We have 17 less teachers compared to our peer districts. 44% of our buses need to be replaced. That means they are 12 years or older or have over 150,000 miles on them. Facilities expenditures per square-foot is 13.5% less than our peer districts. Our resident tax effort, which is the community's tax burden compared to other school districts, is below the state average and local peer average. An additional recommendation was to reduce our staff by 10%. Unfortunately, we have reduced our staff by 33, and this is about 11% of our staff since 2018. Actually, our staff has been reduced by 12 just since the start of this last school year. This whole report is public and can be found on the state auditor's website or on our website and the financial section.
Q: I know that you provided some financial information from the performance audit. Are there other financial documents available, perhaps that compare our district to other districts and what might some of those comparisons be?
A: Yes, the district profile report, also known as the CUPP report, compares some important information to see how we stack up against other school districts that are similar to us and also to the state average. We spent about $11,351 per pupil. This is $530 less than similar districts and $1121 less than the state average. Additionally, we have seven less administrators compared to similar districts and to the state average. Lastly, we only received 27% of our funding from the state, despite the state average being 44%, because we are labeled as a wealthier district. The state expects the rest of our funding to be provided by local taxpayers.
Q: If we're only getting 27% from the state and the state average is 44%, why don't you go after the state for more money?
A: In short, it would be a waste of taxpayer dollars. In 1991 a coalition of schools sued the state to force it to provide the education the Ohio constitution outlined for the children of the state. The courts ruled in favor of the schools, but it is the responsibility of the legislative branch to enforce the ruling. It didn't. This court battle went on for 12 years. In 2003 the final ruling was again in favor of the schools, but as we all know nothing has changed. Our districts suing the state will achieve nothing without a significant change in our legislators.
Q: I know that you've talked about the performance audit and the district profile report. What are some additional financial facts that are important to point out?
A: The district has saved $4.8 million in four phases of budget reductions from 2018 through 2022. Our teachers and support staff unions as well as our administrators all are on a complete pay freeze including longevity and step increases for the 2020/2021 school year. All staff also took a reduction in insurance benefits starting in 2019/2020. We have also had an 11% staffing reduction, and that equals about 33 teaching and staffing positions since 2018. Additionally, 90% of our student and staff computers are in their fourth year of life or older. This becomes even more critical as we use technology for remote or blended learning purposes. Another big blow to the school district were the recent cuts from the state due to COVID-19. We've had a net loss of state revenue of approximately $1,013,000 for May 2020 through June 2021. This is yet another reason why we can't rely on the state to properly fund our schools. It's up to the local community to financially support the children of this community.
Q: How does this levy request compare to the past two levy requests?
A: This levy request is essentially asking for the same amount of money as the past two levy requests. The need has not gone away. We lost a year's worth of funding from the 2019 levy failure, which equals about $3.3 million. To balance our budget the district has had to make $4.8 million in reductions, going back to 2018 and continuing through 2022. By law, a school district can't operate in the red, so if revenue is not coming in, then expenditures need to be reduced. We have been making those reductions in as many places that did not directly impact the student experience as we could. The phase four cuts were the first reductions we had to make that truly had an impact on the kids. Without further funding, the only way to keep our budget in line with the state mandate will be to continue reducing expenditures. At this point there's nothing that we can cut that will not affect the classrooms. Class sizes may have to be increased, or electives reduced as we lose staff, or we may have to increase participation fees, which is very hard on our lower income families.
Q: How is our tax rate compared with other school districts around us?
A: If you take into account real estate taxes, city income tax, and the school district income tax, and you base that on $100,000 home and $50,000 income, we are the lowest in the area compared to Beavercreek, Kettering, Centerville, Yellow Springs, Oakwood, Xenia, and Fairborn. This is based upon the 2019 property tax rate paid in 2020 and this information was pulled from the Montgomery County and the Greene County auditor's website. This chart can be found in the levy section of the school district website. It is worth noting that if this levy passes in November, it will be applied to the current values, not the values after the reassessment. The reassessment does not go into effect until December. If the levy fails and another is put on the ballot in 2021, that levy would then be applied to values after the reassessment. While the district will get a small increase from revenue, due to new construction, this levy will not generate any additional income due to the 2020 reassessment.
Q: We've heard a lot about the name Allerton Hill. What exactly is, or was, Allerton Hill?
A: Allerton Hill is a communication company that specializes in working with school districts to better connect with their community. Our district conducted a community survey in the summer of 2019 and the feedback we received indicated that the district didn't do a good job communicating with the public. Since it's important that our community has the correct information from the school district, we first looked internally to see if anyone on staff had the expertise or time to take on the role of community contact. Our staff is very lean, however, and we discovered that we had no one able to focus on it full-time, so we were going to need to go outside for help. We could've gone two ways. We could've hired someone or outsourced it. We decided to outsource it because we were going to need to hit the ground running and it was a critical need to effectively communicate with the public as fast and quickly as possible. Allerton Hill not only provided communication help, they also helped us to streamline and upgrade our social media presence, such as our Facebook page. We no longer work with Allerton Hill, however, because it was part of our phase four reductions. We are using internal staff to do the best we can. They each focus on it as much as their full-time job allows. Keeping the community informed can be a challenge in the age of instant communication that we live in.
Q: You discussed the budget reductions that have happened to the school because of the coronavirus. How have these impacted the district?
A: Dramatically. Since May 2020, through June of 2021, we've had a net loss of $1,013,000 from the state. The state cut our funding for the 2019/2020 school year in May of this year, just two months before the end of the fiscal year. Then we received no official statement from the state on what our 2020/2021 school year funding would be. They just kept sending us the reduced amount from the 2019/2020 school year. This is 10% less than we had been getting. Not that we were getting much to begin with, because we were considered by the state to be a wealthier school district. We were getting 27%, while the state average is 44%. Now with these reductions, our district is getting only approximately 25% of our budget from the state. This just continues to stress the point that we can't rely on the state to sufficiently fund our schools. We must fund at the local level to guarantee what kind of education the children of our community receive.
Q: I've heard people asking why the kids are being punished by losing programs and why aren't staff salaries being reduced instead? It was my understanding that activities and programs within the school are intertwined with the staff salaries. Without staff there aren't programs. Is this the case?
A: There's a direct correlation between staff and programs. Without one we can't have the other. Behind every one of our great programs is a great teacher or coach. Case in point is part of our phase three and four reductions. We had an opening in a Spanish position at the high school. Due to budget constraints we needed to reduce the staff salary portion of our budget. So we moved the Spanish teacher from the middle school to the high school. Without the budget to hire another teacher, we could no longer offer Spanish at the middle school. Another prime example is the elimination of the STEM and art programs in our elementary school, due to our phase four reductions. Again, we needed to reduce our staff budget. We had to move those teachers to other open positions in the district and didn't have the financial resources to replace them. These programs were all lost because our financial situation has required that we reduce our staffing budget.
Q: So if I wanted to find out more information about the levy than we've been discussing in these questions, where can I go?
A: You can always visit our website, or call Dr. Cozad or our treasurer, Kevin Liming. We can be reached at 937-848-5001. We also have a levy information section at the top of our website that you can click on. We also will be holding two virtual town hall meetings on September 21 and October 21. The link to these can be found on the front page of our website the day of the meeting. It'll be from 6 to 8 PM. Attending will be Dr. Cozad, treasurer Kevin Liming, board president David Carpenter, and Greene County Auditor David Graham will join us at the September 21 meeting. We'll all be providing important information and will be answering questions. Questions can be submitted prior to or during the meeting at the email address [email protected]
Q: So, what exactly are these tailgate talks that I've been hearing about?
Superintendent Dr. Cozad will be hosting Tailgate Talks (previously known as Coffee with the Superintendent) as a way to informally meet and chat with residents. We will meet outside in the parking lot in front of Bell Creek Intermediate gym. COVID-19 protocols such as masks and social distancing will be in place. Dates are Sept. 15 from 9-10 AM, Sept. 28 from 6-7 PM, Oct. 14 from 9-10 AM and Oct. 27 from 6-7 PM
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 October 5, 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, November 3. 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.