Bellaire Schools Options Limited

Bellaire school officials may well have tried everything. They have asked voters to approve higher property taxes.

No, said the electorate.

They have tried an income tax. No.

They have sought higher taxes on the general election ballot. No.

This week they tried their request through a primary election. No.

Voters in Bellaire have rejected school officials’ calls for higher taxes to support the village’s school system six times. On Tuesday, the vote was 1,035 against and 836 in favor.

School Superintendent Tony Scott’s reaction to that was that he and board of education members were disappointed – but were “cutting into” the number of no voters.

But at the rate those in favor of higher taxes for schools are changing minds, first-graders in Belllaire will be in college before enough votes are gained to approve such action. On Tuesday, 44.7 percent of ballots were in favor of higher taxes. Last October, the “yes” percentage was 42.8. Clearly. minds are not being changed very quickly.

The last time Bellaire voters approved a levy for school operating funds was 1976. It has been nearly a half-century since school officials made their case persuasively enough to win.

What next? Some new variation on strategies already employed in vain attempts to win at the ballot box?

Scott and board members have said the school system needs more tax revenue in order to survive. During the past several years, major cuts in spending have been implemented, yet the district still needs more money, they say. It is highly unlikely that funding will come from the state.

“We really don’t have a choice,” Scott said when asked if another attempt will be made to gain voter approval of new taxes for the school system. He added, however, that the decision will be up to board of education members.

They are not to be envied. They have extraordinarily difficult decisions to make – within an exceedingly narrow window of options. But if previous referendums did not make one thing clear, Tuesday’s certainly should have: Absent sweeping changes, perhaps in fundamentals of how Bellaire schools spend money, village residents are not going to vote for higher taxes for public education.