The Beavercreek school district is asking voters to approve an 8.7-mill renewal levy in the May 4 election, after they rejected two levy requests in 2020. The district says it will make massive budget cuts this summer if the five-year renewal is rejected.
This levy, which has been on the books since 2001, generates $18.5 million per year — 18% of Beavercreek City Schools’ operating budget. The school district has been hosting community forums to explain and answer any questions about funding to taxpayers.
“When you’re making cuts in a school district, none of them are ultimately good for kids, and that’s the tough part about this,” Gilding said.
The district will implement a roughly $8.5 million cuts package in summer 2021 if the renewal levy does not pass in May. The cuts would include eliminating about 134 school employee jobs, plus eliminating busing for the high school and raising participation fees for sports and extracurriculars.
Debbie Alberico, who is the chairwoman for the Citizens for Beavercreek Schools PAC, said she moved to the community over 30 years ago for the schools. Her children graduated from Beavercreek schools in 2001 and 2004. She said keeping the extra things, like busing for high school students and foreign language or Advanced Placement courses, is important because those are the things that get kids excited to go to school.
“Strong schools equal a strong community,” Alberico said. “You can’t have services and nobody pays for it. Schools are the centerpiece of the Beavercreek community.”
Beavercreek residents in the “Vote No Beavercreek City Schools” Facebook page have said they are concerned about rising taxes, especially for older, retired residents living on a fixed income.
Auston Hensley, who is a member of that page, said he thinks people need tax relief because so many people have lost their jobs or been hit financially during the coronavirus pandemic. Hensley said the cuts the school district has proposed should instead be targeted at school administration or “sharing in the sacrifice.”
“Leadership is where the responsibility is and they’re not taking responsibility,” Hensley said. “Responsibility has to be put somewhere and it has to start at the top.”
Gilding said the district has chosen these potential cuts because they are in areas not mandated by the state, like middle school foreign language or full day kindergarten.
“(These things are) something that our community expects, our families take advantage of and makes for a better education, but at the end of the day, when you are looking at these the buckets, it becomes a matter of dollars and cents and not what is good for our kids, and unfortunately, that’s what we have to prepare for,” Gilding said.
Last year, Beavercreek put this same expiring levy on the ballot twice, but those times they were trying to convert it to a substitute levy and make it permanent. Voters said no both times, by margins of 52-48 and 53-47. This year, it will be a pure renewal levy (no change in style or tax rate), and will only be for five years.
Beavercreek schools Treasurer Penny Rucker said the levy, if not renewed, will expire in December 2021 — during the middle of the 2021-22 school year. The school has to make its plans now, including hiring, for the full school year, so that’s why the district would make the $8.5 million in cuts this summer.
Rucker said these cuts were determined by the district’s leadership team because teacher salaries and benefits can’t be cut without negotiating first with the teachers’ union. Their contract, which expires in summer 2022, included 2.5% base pay raises for this school year and next school year.
“You can’t just wave a magic wand and make anything decreased because our salaries are negotiated with the unions, we can’t just say ‘oh yeah by the way, we’re just gonna cut 12% across the board in order to accommodate these cuts or to accommodate not passing these levies.’ That will have to be negotiated, which would mean the union will have to agree to that,” Rucker said.
As a high-wealth district, Beavercreek gets comparatively little state funding, with local property taxes making up over $70 million of the schools’ annual $100 million general fund budget. The district’s current five-year financial forecast says without budget cuts or passage of the levy, the district would totally run out of money in 2022-23.
Hensley, from the Vote No group, said he can’t imagine a situation where he would support this levy under the district’s current administration. He has lived in Beavercreek for five years and said he moved to the community because there were lower taxes, no income tax and the school district was great.
Hensley said he feels property taxes are “through the roof.” According to the Greene County Auditor, residential property tax rates in Beavercreek are the highest in Greene County at 80 total mills. That’s the same as Centerville, Dayton and Kettering, which levy income taxes as well.
Alberico said the fact the district has extra things makes the Beavercreek district special. She encouraged her fellow residents on the fence about the levy to do their homework and get any questions they have answered.
“This levy has to pass or the district will lose $18 million of their budget,” Alberico said. “That will devastate, it will dismantle this district. This is not a threat. The district has to keep things mandated by the state.”
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