Voters in the Bellefontaine City School District will have the chance in the Tuesday, Nov. 2, election to consider the district’s request for a substitute emergency operating levy, which would replace an existing emergency levy that was originally passed in 2007.
Superintendent Brad Hall and Treasurer Joshua Wasson said the proposed levy would collect the same dollar amount annually — $1.185 million — that taxpayers are currently paying and that will not change.
The term “substitute levy” addresses growth and new construction in the area. It captures new revenue when new homes and new business/industry buildings are built in the district.
“This allows the district to capture additional revenue without negatively impacting current home and business owners. It allows the collection to be divided up among more entities,” the treasurer explained.
In addition, the district officials related that the “emergency” term for the levy does not mean the district is an unexpected emergency situation. Instead, this term designates that the levy is submitted to the voters as a fixed dollar amount.
“While a millage amount will appear on the ballot, it is only an estimate based on the current tax valuation,” Wasson said. “The mills are adjusted annually to bring in the approved amount. If property values rise, the tax rate for the levy is lowered so taxes collected within the district do not rise during the life of the levy.”
The current levy was successfully renewed by voters in 2011 and again in 2016, and is set to expire at the end of collection year 2022.
For the proposed levy, it is for a continuing period of time, commencing in 2022 and would be first due in calendar year 2023.
An operating levy is utilized to pay for day-to-day operating expenses, including educational programs, school safety measures, personnel, transportation, textbooks and utilities.
“The goal of the district is to provide excellent educational programming for all students,” Hall said. “The funds generated will be used for the daily operating expenses of the district in support of the excellent educational opportunities.”
With the exception of the bond issues for the high school renovations and construction of the new elementary and middle schools, the treasurer and superintendent noted that BCS has only asked taxpayers for new, additional operating money twice in the last 29 years — once in 2007 and in 2019.
“Our school board has done an excellent job controlling costs over the years,” officials said. “Think about what has happened to costs over those 29 years; whether it’s insurance, personnel costs, supplies, materials, utilities, transportation, etc., inflationary costs impact school districts just as they do any homeowner or business.
“With rising operating expenses over many years, minimal increases in state and local funding, and reductions in federal funding, the district must ask taxpayers to maintain current operating expenses.”
In addition to increasing expenses in personnel and insurance, district officials also cited rising special education caseloads, costs associated with student social and emotional issues, school and student safety expenses, credit recovery programs and online schooling through the Virtual Learning Academy program.
If the district receives voter approval of the levy next week, Wasson said barring any unforeseen circumstances, BCS would not need to return to the ballot until 2029.
“Our financial forecast is looking good, and we are continuing to monitor our expenses and looking at all of the areas where we can be fiscally responsible.”
“Historically, the voters in this community have been supportive of our school district and levies, and we are very appreciative,” Hall said.