Bellbrook-Sugarcreek schools face nearly $2.5M in cuts as voters reject latest levy

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BELLBROOK, Ohio (WDTN) – Officials with Bellbrook-Sugarcreek schools said Tuesday that the district now faces nearly $2.5 million in cuts and reductions over the next two years after voters failed to pass the latest levy on the ballot.

The 5.7 mil request, officials say, would have provided additional funding for the district’s operating budget.

“This is an incredibly disappointing outcome that will not only hurt our families and students, but also have a negative impact in multiple ways for the community as a whole,” said David Carpenter, board president.

These “Phase IV” cuts will come in addition to the more than $2.3 million in budget reductions between summer 2018 and Phase I and II reductions in 2019, and Phase III reductions starting in the 2020-2021 school year.

“We appreciate the work done by so many to help inform voters,” stated Doug Cozad, PhD, superintendent. “While this is not the outcome that we believe best serves students and the needs facing our schools, we will do our part to honor the vote. The fiscal reality; however, is that we simply cannot continue to make reductions without seriously impacting the quality of our students’ educational experience, and unfortunately, that is where we are right now.” 

Bellbrook’s last successful operating levy was passed in 2015. An operating levy was placed on the May 2019 ballot, but also failed to pass, resulting in the implementation of Phase I and II reductions. We’re told the district’s five-year forecast in November of 2019 projected an almost $1.9 million deficit in the 2021-2022 school year.

Additionally, because of recent cuts made at the state level, the district’s state funding was reduced by $659,000, or roughly 11 percent of the district’s funding from the state, for the 2019-2020 year.

“Ultimately, it is up to our community to determine the type of schools it wants and, with what we are facing financially, that is directly affected by the outcome at the ballot box,” continued Cozad. “Our district budget is already so lean that cuts are already hitting the classroom and the student experience. There is no easy way to say it – without the additional funds the district would have received through the passage of this levy, the reductions we now have to implement will be devastating.”

The vote was 52 percent against (3,338) and 48 percent in favor (3,030).

The board will have to make determinations about how to proceed with obtaining additional revenue in the future.

“When a levy fails, the needs do not go away with that failure,” continued Cozad. “Rather, they worsen​. The single most important issue facing our schools is our budget, and although I wish to assure our families that we will continue to make every decision with the best interest of our students in mind, these reductions will have a tremendous impact on the experience we are able to provide in our school district. We simply cannot have what we cannot afford. The high-quality educational experience that our children deserve is now compromised.”    

You can find a list of board-approved cuts by clicking here.

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