By Dr. Cozad
As you are aware, we have had to make some tough decisions over the past few months by identifying cuts and reductions as a result of the loss at the ballot in May 2019. And after deliberation and input from the district leadership team, while working closely with our teacher's union, the Bellbrook-Sugarcreek School Board of Education adopted another phase of reductions at the November 14 board meeting.
Phase II reductions, which total nearly $1 million, will go into effect for the 2020-21 school year and include the following:
- Teachers, administrators and non-union staff will take a 0% salary increase for the 2020-21 school year.
- The elimination of 3-5 staff positions through attrition
We are all working together and doing what is necessary to protect the programming and services we offer here at Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Schools while trying our best not to compromise the student experience. I would like to say thank you to the Sugarcreek Education Association, district administrators and non-union staff; I am grateful for their financial sacrifice and commitment to our children. Even though the most critical issue facing our district right now is our budget, we want to continue to put our kids first so we made decisions that will have the least impact on the classroom.
During the board meeting, the Board of Education also took the first of two necessary votes to put a 5.7-mill operating levy on the March 17, 2020 presidential primary ballot. To formally place a levy on the ballot, the Board of Education is required by the state of Ohio to pass two resolutions: a Resolution of Necessity, which occurred during this week’s board meeting, and a Resolution to Proceed, which will be included on the December 3 board meeting agenda.
Following the failure of the May 2019 ballot issue, we began identifying additional cuts and reductions that we would have to make. 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 positions, half of which were teaching positions.
After the implementation of both Phase I and II reductions, with an already lean budget, introducing more reductions as a result of another loss at the ballot will hurt the quality of education we can offer and strike at the core of our schools.
I hope you understand that this is not a spending issue, this is a revenue issue. Over the years, our school district has seen inflationary increases that are outside of our control, such as unfunded and underfunded mandates and a steady increase in the cost of doing business added to the fact that funding from the state has generally flat-lined.
The passage of this 5.7-mill operating levy will help fund the district’s day-to-day operations, such as staffing, utilities, transportation and supplies. If passed, the operating levy would cost taxpayers approximately $16.60 per month per $100,000 home market value.
Earlier this year, we surveyed our community and listened to their input; residents wanted us to make additional cuts and reductions before returning to the ballot. Now we have done all that we can. I do not want our schools to falter due to continued strains to our budget and an unconstitutional public school funding model, but ultimately it is up to the community to decide what kind of schools it wants, and I will respect whatever decision our residents make at the ballot in March.
In between now and Election Day, I will do my best to keep you informed about the facts of the upcoming ballot issue as well as opportunities for you to ask questions and engage in conversations about the levy and the current and future needs of the district.