Bellbrook schools Superintendent Doug Cozad gave a detailed presentation of the district’s financial picture. The district currently projects it is on track to run out of money in two years.
RELATED: State audit suggests ways to trim schools’ budget
Cozad said the school district already has committed to significant budget cuts, eliminating 20 staff positions. They are now considering further cost-cutting recommendations made in a state performance audit triggered by the district’s tenuous financial position.
Cozad has repeatedly said passing the levy would be a better first step, arguing that said some of the recommended cuts would “strike at the core of our schools” and “change the student experience.”
Some residents on Monday asked why the district doesn’t keep the same number of staff, but have them take a pay and benefits cut rather than further reducing staffing levels.
Cozad pointed out that all district staff are taking a pay freeze next year, but school board President David Carpenter took a longer-term approach.
DECEMBER: Longtime school board member resigns
“You look around at your local peers and say, if we’re going to compete for talent to teach in our schools, we need to be competitive with what’s available in the market,” Carpenter said. “If you want to send all of your good teachers away, cut the pay.”
Cozad said there will be further budget cuts if the March levy is rejected, and he will announce those projected cuts by the time early voting begins this month, so residents can have all information before they cast their ballots.
“The reductions if the levy doesn’t pass are real hard decisions. (The program) I want to stay, someone else may want it to go,” Cozad said. “People want to pick the one that doesn’t impact me or my child. We’re trying our best to (keep the cuts) out of the classroom as much as possible.”
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Multiple residents said Monday’s event was helpful, either in explaining the mechanics of taxes and levies, or their effect on the schools and their wallets. Sugarcreek Twp. resident Bob Wilson said as a retiree he worries about increased taxes, but said he could see the need for the levy Monday.
Kathy Elliott and Karen Bachelder both appreciated the tone of the meeting, in light of recent raw, accusatory exchanges among multiple Facebook groups for and against the levy.
Elliott said she came away with “a lot of very factual information, and it was not political at all, which was very good.” Bachelder joked that she came to “see what the goat rodeo was all about” after seeing a lot of “very negative politicking” on social media and “misbehaving adults on both sides.”
“I thought it was educational,” she said. “While I may not have changed my mind just yet, I came up with some additional questions and additional answers. But this time, I got the facts rather than going to Facebook.”
APRIL: School levy beset by errors, arguments on both sides