Schools seek levy support from Belpre Council

BELPRE – Representatives of Belpre City Schools went before Belpre City Council Monday, seeking support for an emergency operating levy before voters in May.

The school district is seeking a 10-year levy which would generate $1.5 million a year for the school system. Officials say the school system will run out of money by 2019-20 as revenue has declined while costs have increased.

Superintendent Tony Dunn and Treasurer Lance Erlwein gave an overview of the district’s finances and the need for the operating levy.

Dunn said three factors have created the need for an emergency operating levy: A broken state funding formula, the elimination of an equipment and inventory tax which represented 30 percent of the district’s revenue, and several years of reduced federal funding coupled with unfunded mandates.

“What has happened is a snowball effect, and the snowball came to the edge of the cliff and here we are now,” Dunn said. “Without this operating levy, we will not be able to function.”

Erlwein said the levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $24 a month.

City Auditor Leslie Pittenger said the city is facing a similar situation, as revenue has not kept pace with costs, leading to an eventual deficit.

“The city is going to be facing the same thing (as Belpre City Schools) in the next three years,” she said.

Officials emphasized the two entities are separate and do not share funding.

Pittenger said the city held off on water rate increases this year in anticipation on the school system’s levy because they did not want to overly burden residents.

The school’s emergency operating levy isn’t the only levy which will go before voters May 8. Washington County Children Services is seeking a Foster Placement Levy which will help fund the cost of foster care for Washington County children.

Alice Stewart, assistant director of Washington County Children Services, said the levy would cost the average homeowner less than $20 a year and all of the funding would go toward foster care for children. The number of Washington County children in foster care jumped dramatically in recent years and the county spent more than $1.7 million last year for foster care placement. The daily cost for a child in foster care can range from $20 to $500 depending on their needs, she said.

“I just implore you all to help support this levy,” Stewart said.