"A STATE of the School Public Forum" played out before a nice-sized turnout at the Bellaire High cafeteria Thursday.
School Superintendent Tony Scott took center stage that night. He was comprehensive in his presentation: detailing the current financial challenges of the district, reasons why it happened, history of levy support as well as all the cutbacks that have been implemented.
The thrust of the session was how to infuse more funding into the district after four unsuccessful attempts at the ballot box in the past few years.
Scott said there is no other choice but to return to the voters. Thursday's forum was held to help gauge interest in an 8.9-mill property levy. He said, should the board go that route, it would be placed on the November ballot.
For someone owning a $50,000 home, the levy would cost them $136.28 per year. An $80,000 home carries a $218.05 yearly price tag while a $100,000 home would have a $272.56 levy bill. For someone with a Homestead Exemption -- the $100,000 home would cost $204.42 in taxes.
Scott said the levy would be limited to five years.
It takes on a new shape from the four previous requests. The first two tries came in the form of a 12.9-mill property tax. The latter two requests were packaged as a 1-percent earned income.
Scott said it has been 35 years since the Bellaire School District has had an influx of new money which is also compounded by the district having the lowest school millage in the county at 23.0. Barnesville has the highest at 36.55.
Moreover, Scott said the Bellaire financial crunch was further worsened by some 100 students leaving the area with their families. He noted open enrollment is not a problem.
Scott said 8.9 mills will suffice now instead of the original 12.9 request because "we don't have the same program as we did back then. We have cut 36 teachers."
The cuts Scott and the board of education have executed have been extensive. In addition to the aforementioned teachers, four administrators and 16 classified employees have been eliminated.
"The state has never shut down a school district, but a school district may never have been in this situation before. The state is broke and they want their money," he said. "We cannot outrun the debt. We have to come back to the voters."
The meeting attracted most of the Big Reds' coaches and teachers, and many members of support groups. One woman from the BHS Alumni Association spoke up and said, "The levy will have the total support of the alumni association."
Scott also fielded a host of questions from those in attendance.
SPEAKING OF Bellaire schools, the high school is in line for a new principal. Steve Romey announced his plans to retire during a special board of education meeting on March 21.
KUDOS ARE in line for Martins Ferry Middle School Principal Mike "Moose" Delatore. One of his students -- Marcus Clark -- became the school's first-ever Belmont County Spelling Bee champion in March. Delatore has come up with a unique way of raising spending money for Clark's trip to the national spelling bee in Washington, D.C., next month. The school is staging "Picture with The Champ Day" on Wednesday, May 2 from 8:30-11:30 a.m. at the middle school. A $5 donation will get you a 5x7 picture with Marcus and the Spelling Bee Traveling Trophy. (Individual and/or group shots are welcome.) A book will be compiled for Marcus containing all the photographs and the remaining proceeds will go to Marcus for spending money during his Washington trip.
THE BELLAIRE Chamber held its monthly luncheon Thursday. It was a landmark session as the chamber added its 100th member. The chamber was also awarded a $1,000 grant for its fireworks show from the Belmont County Tourism Council. The All-American Days Festival will be held May 31, June 1-2. President Lou Ann Bennett also said a group of volunteers will be planting flowers in the historic village park on May 7.
THE NFL Draft finally plays out this week. ESPN hypes the draft for months, elevating it to overkill proportions. It obviously is the year of the quarterback with Andrew Luck and RG III expected to go 1-2. The fun begins with the Cleveland Browns' pick at No. 4. My guess is they will select Alabama running back Trent Richardson. The Browns need playmakers -- Richardson is definitely that.
THE MARTINS Ferry Chamber of Commerce held its monthly luncheon Tuesday, welcoming one new member: Ohio River Properties. The chamber is also finalizing plans for its annual Martins Ferry Academic Awards Banquet, with 271 students qualifying this year.
Council President Kristy Davis gave the report on city business, noting a $450,000 payment was received from the Belmont County Port Authority for the sale of property on First Street.
Fire Chief Jack Regis outlined the chamber on a slew of department activities, including: steak fry (May 19), golf scramble (May 5), Betty Zane Days (Aug. 7-11) and a 125th anniversary banquet in August.
I AM a staunch Pittsburgh Penguins' fan, but I expect the Philadelphia Flyers will ice the Pens' comeback hopes today in the City of Brotherly Love. Those 3-0 series holes are tough to shovel out of.
IT'S GOOD to see Bellaire is going to wage a battle to raze the All-American Town of blighted structures. We (I am a Bellaire resident) have a countless number of dilapidated buildings which cast the village in a negative light. Bellaire has many good things going on, getting rid of unsightly and unsafe structures will expedite the revitalization efforts. We just need to find all the missing money from the water department.
Kapral may be reached at bkapral@timesleader online.com