SUGARCREEK TOWNSHIP, Ohio (WDTN) – On the Bellbrook-Sugarcreek school district’s fourth attempt in two years to get a levy passed, voters approved a seven-year, 4.9-mill emergency operating levy Tuesday, with 53% supporting the measure and 47% voting against it.

Voters previously rejected three other levies that had been proposed by the district. This is the first levy the district’s voters have passed since 2015, according to school officials.

The levy had been a divisive issue among voters in the community. Supporters argued the funding would be critical to students and their education, and opponents called for other ways to balance the district’s budget, such as reducing staff members’ pay.

“I support our schools, and I think they do a good job with our money over the years, and so I think they had a reasonable request,” said Kevin Bowers, who voted in favor of the levy.

“When I was at Bellbrook, they had like lavish facilities,” said Benjamin Bond, who voted against the levy. “They have the money that I feel they don’t need any more.”

The district used community feedback to increase the odds of getting the latest levy proposal passed, according to superintendent Doug Cozad.

The 4.9-mill emergency operating levy will generate $3.2 million dollars per year, costing taxpayers $171.50 annually per $100,000 in appraised property value, according to the district.

“Feeling totally ecstatic here,” Cozad said Tuesday night. “Just extremely pleased with the results.”

The levy’s approval allows the district to bring back some positions and programs that had been previously eliminated, Cozad said. Those include the K-5 STEM program, 31 supplemental positions for activities and athletics and two librarian positions.

“I think the message goes out to the whole community that we need to come back together, we need to be unified, that the school district is a great reflection of our community,” Cozad said.

After making $4.8 million in budget cuts since 2018, Cozad told 2 NEWS he does not foresee the district implementing more reductions or asking voters to approve another levy anytime soon.

“This is going to provide some long-term financial stability for the school district,” Cozad said. “In the past, we’ve been extremely frugal with our budget and lean with our budget, and we’ll continue to be that frugal and lean with our budget. So we’re going to push that off of any thoughts of that for very far off into the future.”