Beavercreek schools warn of drastic cuts if May levy fails

Beavercreek has a large school levy on the May 4 ballot, with budget cuts pending if it is rejected.

District projects it would eliminate about 134 jobs in that scenario, to save $8.5 million

Beavercreek’s school board on Thursday approved a huge contingency package of budget cuts that they hope they don’t end up going through with this summer.

A property tax levy that generates $18.5 million per year — almost 20% of the schools’ general fund budget — is set to expire at the end of this year. If voters on May 4 approve a renewal of that levy at 8.7 mills, that funding will continue in 2022 and the cuts will be canceled.

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But Beavercreek Superintendent Paul Otten said if the May levy is rejected, the district will implement the roughly $8.5 million cuts package in summer 2021. The cuts would include eliminating about 134 school employee jobs, plus reducing busing options and raising participation fees for sports and extracurriculars.

“If we’re unsuccessful on May 4, the district has to prepare, because the levy expires in December,” Otten said. “We moved forward tonight to approve a reduction package, should we be unsuccessful May 4, of about $8.5 million that would really take our district down to state minimum levels.”

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. This year, it will be a pure renewal levy (no change in style or tax rate), and will only be for five years.

Beavercreek school board members (from far left, Krista Hunt, Denny Morrison, Jo Ann Rigano, Gene Taylor and Chris Stein) discuss the tax levy that voters will consider May 4.
Beavercreek school board members (from far left, Krista Hunt, Denny Morrison, Jo Ann Rigano, Gene Taylor and Chris Stein) discuss the tax levy that voters will consider May 4.

Credit: Jeremy P. Kelley

Credit: Jeremy P. Kelley

“It has an expiration date. That was one of the things we heard on the last two attempts,” Otten said. “People were concerned about having something that was permanent. This one is not permanent.”

That’s often a tough decision for schools, as some residents oppose any type of permanent tax, while others would rather make it permanent rather than have to go back to the ballot year after year to renew various levies.

The contingency cuts the school board approved Thursday would be dramatic if enacted. The district’s draft plan calls for laying off about 80 “certified” staff (a majority teachers), more than 40 “classified” staff (bus drivers, support personnel and others) and about 10 contracted staff, including security.

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Those laid-off staff would mean the end of certain offerings. Kindergarten through fifth grades would lose art, music, gym and library. Kindergarten would be cut from a full day to half day. High school electives, honors and Advanced Placement classes would be cut.

Busing would be eliminated for high school students, and only available in kindergarten through eighth grades for those who live more than 2 miles from their school. Pay-to-play fees would rise to $400 per middle school sport and $600 per high school sport. Performing arts fees would be $150 to $200, and clubs would cost $15 to $75 each.

School board member Chris Stein said making the scenarios public now is a good thing, because it “allows the community plenty of time to ask questions and to really understand what’s at stake here.”

Several school board members said they were optimistic residents would approve the levy, given that there’s no increase in tax rate.

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“Schools are so indelibly and completely tied to the community, that any loss or downgrade of our system of schools is going to have a ripple effect across everything we do … to all facets of life in Beavercreek,” board member Gene Taylor said.

The timing of the cuts is complicated. If voters reject the levy in May, but approve it in November, the district’s funding would not be interrupted. Despite that possibility, if the levy is rejected in May, the schools will make cuts this summer no matter what.

That’s because they have to make budget decisions for the whole school year (through June 2022) this May-June. They would not commit to the same level of spending given the chance that voters could reject the levy again in November, and suddenly $18.5 million would be gone for calendar year 2022.

District officials say if the May levy passes, the district will finish each year with a positive fund balance through 2024-25. If the levy fails and the cuts are made, the district projects they would run out of money during 2024-25. And if the levy fails and and the district would make no cuts, the schools would run out of money in 2022-23.

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