Bellaire council hears levy presentation

BELLAIRE – Bellaire School District Superintendent Tony Scott gave village council an update on the district’s levy fight to kick off Thursday’s regularly scheduled meeting.

Utilizing a digital projector to make his case, Scott relayed to council about the district’s battle to get out of debt that began when Scott first entered office.

“When I first got here, we were staring at almost a $4 million deficit and the state had put us in fiscal emergency and we had to borrow to stay solvent,” Scott said. “We were in a situation where we had to either bring in additional revenue or cut expenditures. We’ve reduced our debt during the four years to the point of more than $3 million.”

During that time frame, the district has eliminated five administrative, 39 teaching and 18 classified positions, along with a school resource officers. The reductions total $4,650,000. Despite this, the district has been rated excellent twice in the last three years by the state of Ohio, including an “Excellent with Distinction” rating for the middle school.

But as Scott explained, the district would like to do more and also provide its students the same opportunities that children in other districts are afforded.

Scott wants to be able to bring back specialized teachers for elementary and junior high art, music and physical education classes.

He also wants to be able to update the district’s technology programs and equipment, bringing it inline with neighboring districts. Scott also wants to be able to upgrade the district’s aging transportation fleet at the rate of one bus per year.

But to do so, the district is seeking to pass an 8.25 mill levy, its sixth such attempt at raising revenue recently.

The Bellaire school district has not seen a general operating levy pass since 1976.

“We need the city and the businesses and the school working together to turn this thing around,” Scott said. “If there’s going to be a rebirth in Bellaire, if there is going to be a renaissance, it’s going to start with the schools. That’s what people look at when they consider moving into a community.

“We’re doing our best to make that happen. We’ve righted the ship. But we’ve had to cut a lot.”

Council voiced its support for the district, making it official by passing a motion, 6-0, in favor of supporting the school levy.

A resident was denied in her request to use the village park, along with the farmer’s market, to solicit signatures for a petition seeking to get the use of medical marijuana on the ballot in Ohio. The vote was 5-1 against, with Councilwoman Pat Thomas casting the lone dissenting vote. Council said the woman is free to seek signatures in town, but will not be allowed to use the park or farmer’s market in order to do so.

Council gave its approval, via a 6-0 vote, to allow the First United Methodist Church to use a corner of the village park for its Easter Sunrise Service on March 31. A small fire will be lit in a copper owl at the edge of the park, with church members also lighting small candles off a burning Pascal candle. The service will begin outside at approximately 6:45 a.m., moving indoors at roughly 7:15 a.m.

Councilman Jim Williams reported that the village again received a grant from the J.B. Green Team that will go toward two village cleanup days. One will be held in May. The other is set to take place in August. Dates and times have yet to be determined.

Councilwoman Lou Ann Bennett reminded council that the All-American Days Festival committee is sponsoring its annual Easter Egg hunt in the village park Saturday, beginning at 2 p.m. Bennett also reported that the chamber of commerce is gearing up for its annual membership drive and dinner, which will be held at the Sons of Italy in town.

There will be a utility committee meeting on Tuesday at 10 a.m. inside council chambers.

Hughes may be reached at