New Levy Vote Not Realistic

Some Bellaire residents may be wondering what part of “no” officials in the village’s school district don’t understand.

During the past three years, voters have been asked seven times to approve tax increases for the Bellaire Local School District. They have said no every time.

This week, the district’s proposal for a new 5.9-mill property tax levy to support schools was defeated. Nearly 54 percent of voters refused to agree. According to unofficial returns, the vote was 1,349-1,154 against the levy.

School officials had hoped to generate an additional $687,000 in school funding annually through the levy. Now, they will have to make do with current levels of funding – or try again at the polls.

If the history of the district’s attempt to collect more tax money is any guide, that would not work.

Again, voters have rejected property tax levies and income tax proposals seven times during the past three years. Last May, school officials asked for an 8.25-mill levy, and lost by a 1,039-842 vote count. This time around, with a lower levy rate on the ballot, the margin of defeat was only about 1 percentage point less than in May.

Severe cuts in spending have been made since state officials declared Bellaire schools to be in “fiscal emergency” status on Dec. 31, 2009. Superintendent Tony Scott and board of education members had hoped voters would approve the levy to provide enough money to restore some services cut since then. Among them were art, music and physical education classes for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Also, Scott had hoped for funding for advanced placement classes, a school resource officer and new equipment, including buses.

But voters said no.

Clearly, a majority of the electorate is not convinced of a need for additional tax money that would come out of their pockets. Though several programs have been eliminated, the schools have remained open, seniors continue to graduate from high school, and the district even receives state notification occasionally that a good job is being done in some aspects of the education process.

Perhaps it is time to move on, then.

Educators’ desire to do more for the young people in their care is understandable – even praiseworthy. But seven “no” votes by Bellaire residents leave no reason for optimism an eighth try at the polls would turn out differently.