Bellaire school levy options outlined

BELLAIRE A special meeting was held here Monday evening by the Bellaire Local School District Board of Education with Superintendent Tony Scott giving an update on levy option and technology upgrades.

The board entered into executive session short after the start of the meeting to discuss personnel and negotiations which lasted for about 30 minutes.

Back in regular session, Scott discussed three levy options for the board to consider for the November General Election Ballot 7.9-mill, 6.9-mill and 5.9-mill levies.

A 7.9-mill levy would generate about $916,000 a year for the district. A 6.9-mill will generate about $800,000 a year and a 5.9-mill levy will generate $685,000, Scott said.

“One of the biggest issues we are going to be dealing with (with the state budget bill) is the 12-and-a-half percent reduction shows zero,” Scott said. “What that means is the state gave the taxpayers a discount. The discount is gone. So if you compare the last one (levy attempt) we did, the 8.25 (emergency levy) to 7.9, you’ll see that even through the millage is less, the monthly amount is more.”

In December 2009, the school district was declared to be in “fiscal emergency” by the state auditor for failing to overcome a budget deficit in the district’s five-year forecast. Since then, the district has had emergency levies and income taxes placed on the ballots to fix the financial woes, but all have been rejected by school district voters.

The most recent vote on an 8.25 mill emergency levy was shot down by voters in May, 1,039 to 842.

The district has cut staff and expenses as part of its efforts to lower the deficit and has had to take a no interest loan from the state.

The district has been about erase some of the debt, but without the new funds, Scott told the board the district is forecasting another budget deficit start in 2016 of about $883,000.

“In 2016, there is no more to cut,” he said. “What we’ve been about to do is get our debt paid off we are not going to be able to see it through. And we still need to deal with our buses, technology, school safety and reinstate our music and (physical education) in kindergarten through eighth grade at the very least.”

The board also heard about plans to upgrade the computer network for the schools. Scott said there have been issues with internet connections running slow. According to Scott, the district has a 10 megabit fiber optic line for it main connection from the high school. The elementary and middle school connect to that line via a transmission line or T1 line. The proposal is to upgrade the the fiber line that connect with OMERESA in Steubenville to 100 megabits and add a T1 line to both the middle and elementary schools.

Through a program called E-RATE, Scott said the district can get a discount on its Internet rate. The cost of the upgrade is about $16,000.

Scott said the upgrade should show a significant speed increase with network, which will be necessary for online state testing.