Bellaire School levy passes; Buckeye Local’s fails

T-L Photo/SHELLEY HANSON
RAYLAND resident Fred Garner signs his name before voting at the Yorkville VFW building during Tuesday’s election. Shown helping him is Joyce Baiocco, election official.

T-L Photo/SHELLEY HANSON RAYLAND resident Fred Garner signs his name before voting at the Yorkville VFW building during Tuesday’s election. Shown helping him is Joyce Baiocco, election official.

By DYLAN McKENZIE

Times Leader Staff Writer

BELLAIRE — Voters in the Bellaire Local School District, fresh out of a fiscal emergency, passed a levy in Tuesday’s election to help the district get back on its feet.

It was the first time in more than 40 years that voters approved an additional operating levy, with the most recent failed attempt coming in November.

Meanwhile, voters in the Buckeye Local School District voted down a levy to help repair aging buildings in the district.

Bellaire Superintendent Darren Jenkins said in an earlier interview the 2.5-mill levy is “vital” to the school system’s future.

According to unofficial totals from the Belmont County Board of Elections, the levy passed with 762 votes in favor and 577 against.

The levy will generate funds to be used to help restore programs that have been cut due to the fiscal woes of the district, such as elementary music and physical education, art programs and the libraries at all of the schools in the district.

Bellaire Board of Education President Jason Ayers, who has been on the board for eight years, said the district has been trying to pass a levy ever since he arrived, and he is “absolutely elated” by the news of its approval.

“We are very excited about the passage of this levy,” Ayers said. “Now we can bring back programs, which is all we’ve wanted to do.”

Ayers said once the money begins coming in, the programs will be restored gradually. Although he does not have an official timeline, he said he believed it would be “pretty quick.”

“I just want to thank all the students, the staff, the parents who have worked and sacrificed to get us here,” Ayers said. “And I want to thank the voters who helped make this happen.”

To the north, despite efforts from a group known as “Team Buckeye” to urge voters to support a 4.8-mill additional levy for the Buckeye Local School District, only 1,177 voters supported the measure, with 1,315 voting against it, according to unofficial totals.

The money would have gone to operating expenses and emergency situations, such as structural issues, and to upgrade buildings, some of which have not had any significant attention for over 70 years. With the levy failing to pass, the school district may be forced to take measures to save the district money, including elimination of staff positions, increased class sizes, wage freezes and a designation from the state as a district under “fiscal concern/watch.”

Funding for the district has declined due to dwindling enrollment. In 1991, there were 3,058 students enrolled in the district compared to 1,803 this year.

Buckeye Local Board of Education President Dirk Pielech said the defeat is bitter, but the district has to keep moving forward and do the best it can for its students.

“Many people in Buckeye Local worked very hard for this campaign, and unfortunately it failed by about 3 percent,” Pielech said. “We’ll just have to work a little harder, budget in a little smarter manner, and try to pull together a little more for the the success of the district.”

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