Beavercreek’s new 6.2-mill school levy appears to have narrowly failed, according to unofficial results from the Greene and Montgomery County boards of election.
With all precincts counted in both counties, voters were rejecting the levy by a 50.46 to 49.54 ratio. The vote totals were 13,063 for the levy and 13,303 against — a 240 vote margin out of more than 26,000 ballots cast.
Superintendent Paul Otten acknowledged that’s too wide a margin to be made up by provisional ballots.
“We’re very disappointed with the outcome,” Otten said. “It was amazing to see how many people did get out and vote, but we have to respond to this and balance our budget.”
Otten said the district will begin planning budget cuts for the 2019-20 school year, and will put some form of levy on the ballot again in 2019. Otten said some cuts, such as reducing elective courses (and therefore the staff who teach them) would be locked in place for next school year even if a levy passes in May, because student schedules have to be finalized before then.
Other cuts that may be planned for 2019 — Otten had previously mentioned busing and pay-to-participate fees as options — could be adjusted if a levy passes in May.
Beavercreek’s last levy, a substitute measure in 2017 that did not raise tax rates, was rejected in the May election, then passed last November.
Beavercreek City Schools voters are deciding today whether to approve a significant new tax levy, as district leaders say special education costs and other mandates have them projecting a negative cash balance by late spring 2021.
The five-year, 6.2-mill property tax levy would pay for day-to-day school operating costs. It would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $217 annually and would raise $11.4 million per year for a district with a $91 million annual budget.
“It’s a big number, but our expenditures are exceeding our revenues pretty dramatically,” Superintendent Paul Otten said. “You constantly hear community members say, ‘Why don’t you live within your means?’ The answer behind that is we have needs that mandate from the state and federal government that we must meet.”
Beavercreek treasurer Penny Rucker cited special education as the biggest example of “underfunded mandates,” saying the district got $4.3 million in funding for those services last year but spent $21.7 million.
Otten said there has been some levy confusion this year because voters approved a “substitute” levy last fall. After that levy passed, Otten said it “positions the community well … and we won’t have to go back to voters often.”
“I stand by the quote, because it does position us better than any levy has in the past,” Otten said. “It was a smart move for our community. … But by no means did I say it would be the answer (to all funding needs). … It will give us growth on our dollars in the long run, but we won’t see that for many years.”
Beavercreek got a “B” on this fall’s state report card, pairing C’s in achievement and the “prepared for success” measure with A’s in student progress, graduation rate and closing performance gaps between groups of students.
Otten said if voters reject the levy, the district will make cuts next school year. Those could include changes to busing, extracurricular pay-to-participate fees, and elimination of some elective courses (and therefore staff). Those cuts would stay for at least one year, even if a levy is approved in May, because for any levy passed in 2019, the district would not start collecting until 2020.
“This levy doesn’t bring anything new to the district,” Otten said. “I want our community to know that these dollars are going to be spent to maintain the current level of services we have today and the current electives and offerings, for more years, because we feel we’re doing really good things.”