Beavercreek Schools have levy on the ballot for 5th time since 2010

For the fifth time in 2 1/2 years, Beavercreek School voters are being asked to approve a 5-year emergency levy to fund school operations, the first new money for operations since 2004.

The 6.3-mill levy will raise $10.3 million for operations. If passed the levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 appraised home $220.50 a year, according to Greene County Auditor David Graham.

Supporters say the $10.3 million annually is needed to keep the district moving forward with its excellent education of children.

Opponents contend that for 14 consecutive years the district has maintained its top ranking with the tax money it gets and could continue.

The history

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Voters have not passed a new operating levy since 2003. Voters did approve an $84 million bond issue in 2008 to build a middle school, an elementary school and renovate the district’s remaining eight schools. None of that money, however, can be used to operate the schools.

The school board has dropped the amount of the levy millage from 9.9 mills in 2010 to 6.3 mills this time around. At the same time, the board has cut operating expenses.

* Two-thirds of voters voted ‘“no” to a 9.9 mill levy in May 2010;

* More than 55 percent rejected a 6.7 mill tax in November 2010;

* 52 percent voted “no” on a 6.7 mill tax in March 2012;

* Just more than 50 percent said “no” for a third 6.7 mill tax in November 2012.

According to the Beavercreek Schools’ five-year forecast, the district has been dipping into its cash reserves since the 2009-2010 school year to keep the schools operating. The district forecasts it will end the current school year with $12.8 million in reserves, which is below the district’s adequate cash reserves. The school board has determined it needs 20 percent of its annual revenues for an adequate cash reserve.

As a consequence, the district forecasts it would start the 2014-2015 school year behind the eight-ball, ending that school year with $5.2 million in reserves.

“That’s not enough to open the schools the next year,” Superintendent Bill McGlothlin said.

This time around, the district reached out to the business community to examine the district’s books, look at various alternatives and come up with a recommendation.

“This is what I do every day. I wanted the facts,” said Kevin Robie, one of six business leaders who met with school officials several times in July to look at the finances. “We went down into the weeds.”

The group wanted to know what it would take to keep the district functioning for five years. It’s recommendation was for 6.5 mills, or $10.6 million annually. The board chose a slightly lesser millage.

“This is what we recommended. This isn’t just the school board making this decision,” Robie said.

The numbers

According to the Ohio Department of Education, per student funding in Beavercreek has increased by 6 percent from October 2006 to October 2012. Over the same period, cost per pupil has increased 24 percent.

According to the district’s five-year forecast, it has cut its operating expenses by $7.8 million in two years — from $75.9 million in the 2010-11 school year to $68.1 million in 2012-13. Of that decrease, nearly $5.7 million came from personnel cuts, including 74 full-time equivalency teaching, staff and administrative positions and 13.8 full-time equivalency interventionist positions.

In addition, administrators, teachers and support staff agreed to a 2 percent pay cut for the 2011-12 school year. Base and step pay were frozen for 2012-13, and health insurance premiums increased. The most recent two-year contract continues the pay freeze, but includes performance-based bonuses. The cost of those bonuses is to be offset by decreases in district health care costs. Those decreases could include increased employee deductible and other measures to be negotiated by Jan. 1.

Beavercreek teachers’ average salary ($62,954) is above the state average ($58,119), but is below that of Beavercreek’s “comparable districts” ($67,200), according to the state.

While the number of teachers, administrators and staff have decreased and programs cut, enrollment has increased. From October 2006 to October 2012, average daily attendance rose from 7,581 to 8,051, according to ODE data.

Performance

The district has been one of the top rated districts in the state for 14 consecutive years. Despite ever toughening state standards, the district has been rated “Excellent” or “Excellent with distinction” on the state report cards.

The state rankings changed in the 2012-2013 school year. Beavercreek met all 24 state standards and was one of only 14 districts to receive all A’s and B’s (5 A’s, 4 B’s) on the report card and racked up its highest performance index.

Both sides

Beavercreek always has a well-organized anti-tax group in the communty, though it may be fractured over this school levy.

Flo Thompson, president of Tax Busters PAC, said her group generally does not get involved in school levies. To her, the problem is with the state General Assembly that has failed for decades to produce a funding formula that would pass constitutional muster of the state Supreme Court.

“Every time we turn around the schools have their hand out for more money,” she said. Voters, she said, “feel like they’re being harassed” by the constant barrage of levies. The school board members “just don’t seem to be able to understand the word ‘No’.”

Dale Brown, the group’s treasurer, said this time around he’s supporting the levy. “I think most people in Tax Busters are just anti-tax. But I think spending on the kids is the best use of my money.”

Opponents also point to teachers’ salaries and the federal furloughs that have hit the community. They point out they aren’t against good schools; they believe the district has not made its case for more money.

Robie said the district has done a “yeoman’s job” in making cuts and stretching dollars.

Dean Vinson, a local longtime levy researcher, argued that the school district is making a reasonable financial request. He said keeping the district’s legacy of quality education is “an inherent value of the community that’s worth paying to preserve.”

“I don’t want to wake up in any May and find the district is not rated excellent,” Robie said. “People may not realize the impact it would have on home values, on community values.”

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