Renewal school levy going to Belpre voters

BELPRE – The Belpre City Schools District Board of Education unanimously approved to place a renewal emergency levy on the May 6 primary ballot during the regular meeting Monday.

The 3.85 mill levy generates $825,000 annually for the school district and, if passed this spring, will continue to generate the same amount while not having taxpayers see an increase in their taxes, said Superintendent Tony Dunn.

Following a lengthy discussion, the board chose to amend the original emergency levy from five to 10 years in order to save the district and taxpayers money in another renewal election.

Last year, the state Legislature approved to allow school districts to seek 10-year levies as opposed to five-year and, while it will not change the amount of money a taxpayer puts forth, it will allow the district and, by proxy the taxpayers, to not have to pay for two elections.

“I am confident in five years we will need this money,” said district treasurer Missy Griffith. “By putting this on for 10 years we will be saving the community the money by not having another election.”

On the current levy, the owner of a $100,000 owner-occupied house pays $111.78 a year, which will not change with the renewal in May. The $111.78 annually works out to $9.32 a month or 30 cents a day.

“This levy is the biggest bargain that a homeowner gets for anything their taxes cover,” Dunn said. “I am a taxpayer here and I believe the taxes I pay that go toward the school system goes to a quality product.”

Board member Fred Meredith said the district needs the funds generated by the levy.

“We are not asking for new money, just to keep the money we have to keep us afloat,” Meredith said.

The levy was originally adopted in March 2000 and was renewed for a third time in November 2009.

“Our entire (yearly) budget is just over $11 million, which makes this levy a significant amount to our district,” Dunn said. “If we get to May 2014 and have not renewed this levy, will need to make $825,000 in cuts to our budget which will cut very deeply into teaching staff, administrative staff and transportation.

“We will not be able to recover from the loss if the levy is not renewed,” he said. “This is not a levy for cash; it is a survival levy.”

Griffith echoed Dunn’s urgency in the need for the district to have the funds generated by this levy and said the five-year budget forecast shows a significant negative balance for 2015 and without the money the district could be lost.

“We have enough cash to keep us afloat, but if the levy is not passed, we will be more than $1 million in the hole,” she said.

“If that happens, the state will come in and take over.”

In other business:

* Prior to the regular business meeting, the board held its annual organizational meeting where officers and committee designations were approved.

Pat Taylor was voted as president while Mike Wile was chosen as vice president.

Wile will serve as the district’s legislative liaison to the Ohio School Boards Association for 2014 while Meredith will continue to be the district student achievement liaison to the Ohio School Boards Association.

Meredith will remain on the district’s athletic council while the negotiating committee will be Bob Wallace and Leonard Wiggins.

Wallace and Meredith will serve on the superintendent evaluation committee and will evaluate Dunn as Wile and Wiggins will evaluate district treasurer Griffith.

Meredith and Wiggins will serve on the district policy committee for the coming year. Taylor will serve on the 2014 insurance and wellness committee.

Wile and Meredith will sit on the buildings and grounds committee, which was created in 2010 at former board member Rod Hineman’s suggestion to oversee the district’s properties.

* The board welcomed Wallace, a former Belpre city councilman, as the newest member. He and incumbent members Wiggins and Meredith were sworn in prior to the regular and organizational board meetings. The three were elected to their positions in the November general election.