Minimize Any New Tax Issue

During the past three and one-half years, Bellaire voters have been asked six times to approve higher taxes for public schools. Their answers have been no, no, no, no, no – and no.

School officials have tried both income and property tax approaches, to no avail. In May, the last time a school tax issue was on the ballot, it was defeated by a vote of 1,039-842.

On Monday night, Bellaire school board members discussed trying again. Superintendent Tony Scott outlined three options, all for higher property taxes. They range from a 5.9-mill levy raising $685,000 a year to a 7.9-mill measure that would bring in $916,000 annually.

Board members, administrators and employees of the school district have worked cost-cutting wonders since 2009, when Bellaire schools plunged into a fiscal abyss. Truly draconian spending cuts, including elimination of about 40 positions, have put the system back on a nearly even keel. But by 2016, the district faces an annual deficit of about $883,000, Scott reported Monday.

He added that without additional funding, it will not be possible for the school system to handle pressing needs.

Board members took no action Monday regarding another levy request. If they want to put an issue on the November election ballot, time is of the essence, however.

Clearly, Bellaire voters will not approve new taxes at anywhere near the rates previous ballot issues have sought. Every argument in favor of a major tax increase has been made – and has fallen on deaf ears.

It may be that school district voters cannot be persuaded to approve any significant tax increase. That possibility needs to be on board members’ minds.

Should they choose to try again in November, however, it is plain they should adopt the smallest of Scott’s options – the 5.9-mill levy. Asking for more would be a sure way of losing again.