On May 7, or through early voting at the Board of Elections, voters in various parts of Belmont County will head to their respective voting precincts to vote on school, park, or municipal levy issues. In this first of two columns, I will breakdown the various levy issues to be held in Bellaire Local School District, Bethesda, Bridgeport Exempted Village School District, Buckeye Local School District, Jefferson County Joint Vocational School District and the Switzerland of Ohio School District. In the second column, for Sunday, May 5, I will break down the two levies on the ballot in Richland Township and the City of St. Clairsville, on behalf of the St. Clairsville-Richland City School District and Memorial Park District of St. Clairsville and Richland Township.
One of the most highly-visible and discussed levies is the 8.25 mill levy to be held for the Bellaire Local School District. For the sixth time in three years, the Bellaire Local Board of Education places an additional tax levy on the ballot for the purpose of " providing for the emergency requirements of the school district." If it passes, it will generate a little over $961,000.00 per year based upon the current real estate valuations in the district and will be for a period of five(5) years, commencing this year with the first collection in 2014. For property owners, if one owns a $50,000.00 home in the district, the tax will be roughly $10.00 per month or $120.00 per year in new taxes. As many Bellaire and Pultney township residents know, the voters have not passed an operating levy since 1976, thereby forcing district officials to cut over $4 million dollars from the school's budget. From eliminating administrative, teaching and classified positions, to its school resource officer, the district has been forced into fiscal emergency with the State of Ohio. Proponents of the levy state that they intend to use the levy monies to upgrade school technology, to upgrade its school buses, improve school security and to reinstate music and other elective classes, all victims of the aforementioned cutbacks.
In the Village of Bethesda, residents are being asked to approve a 3 mill replacement levy, for a continuing period of time, for the purpose of " providing and maintaining motor vehicles, communications and other equipment used directly in the operation of the police department, or the payment of salaries to permanent police personnel," commencing this year with the first collection in 2014. Because of a change in the intended use of the current levy monies, council has approved this levy in its replacement form, for a continuing period of time. While a replacement levy is not technically new taxes, it does potentially increase a resident's tax bill for, if passed by the voters, the millage will be based on the current tax valuation of one's real estate, as opposed to the valuation when it was first voter-approved. In addition to the replacement levy ballot issue, Bethesda village council has placed a 1.5 mill renewal levy for the purpose of "general construction, reconstruction, resurfacing, and repair of the streets, roads, bridges and alleys" in the village. Again, it is a proposed renewal(no additional taxes) for a period of five(5) years commencing this year with the first collection in 2014. Residents are simply being asked to renew a levy for which they are already paying on their tax bill.
In the Village of Bridgeport Exempted Village School District, voters are being asked to approve a 1 mill additional tax levy, for a five(5) year period of time, for the purpose of " current operating expenses," for a period of five(5) years, commencing this year with the first collection in 2014.
The Board intends to use some of these monies, which may cost taxpayers anywhere from $9.00-$60.00 per year, for a permanent school resource officer for the district. Since it is not limited to that sole purpose, funds could be used to for the general operation of the district.
In the Buckeye Local School District, voters are being asked to approve a 2.1 mill additional tax levy, for a period of five(5) years, for the purpose of "providing for emergency requirements of the school district." If it passes, it will generate a little over $630,000 per year based upon the current real estate valuations in the district, commencing this year with the first tax collection in 2014.
A very similar levy was rejected on November 7, 2012, by voters of Belmont, Harrison and Jefferson counties (the district encompasses parts of all three (3) counties), but it would have been for a continuing period of time. These funds, as proposed, can be used for any general operating expense of the district.
For those residents of Belmont, Carroll, Harrison and Jefferson counties living within the purview of the Jefferson County Joint Vocational School District, voters are being asked to approve a 1 mill additional tax levy, for a period of seven(7) years, commencing this year with the first collection in 2014. The purpose of such levy shall be for " current expenses; purchasing equipment for buildings; and improving buildings.
In the Switzerland of Ohio Local School District, which covers parts of Belmont and Noble counties, and all of Monroe County, voters are being asked to approve a 6.44 mill additional tax levy, for a period of five(5) years, for the purpose of " avoiding an operating deficit of the school district." On the current ballot, said deficit is listed at $2,500,000 and if approved, the monies generated from said levy could be used to pay any and all operating expenses of the district.
As most of Ohio's school districts and all of Ohio's political subdivisions have realized dramatic state funding cuts, especially over the last 5 years, and with no real changes proposed in the way Ohio funds its schools and/or local governments, ballots will continue be riddled with school tax and local government levy issues as will appear on the May 7 ballot.