Address Loan Payoff Questions

Making the final payment on a loan is a good feeling. It means you have discharged an obligation – and will have more money in your pocket in the future because you no longer have to make payments on the loan.

Before they cast ballots on May 6, thoughtful voters in Bellaire will want to know how village school officials are handling that situation.

During the past four years, Bellaire Board of Education members have tried on seven occasions to persuade voters to approve higher taxes. They have been rejected every time.

They will try again on May 6, with a new tax proposal aimed at providing nearly $700,000 a year in new revenue for schools. This time will be different, however.

When school board members in 2012 hired Cyndi Shaw as the district’s treasurer, they brought on board a woman whose skills and dedication helped them navigate troubled fiscal waters. Finding ways to save money has been a key concern since the state Department of Education placed Bellaire schools in “fiscal emergency” status in December 2009. Shaw has played an important role in that.

Shaw revealed this week she is leaving the treasurer’s position. At the same time she noted that school officials hope to pay off a loan from the state this June.

At one time the district owed the state $6.7 million. That has been reduced to $369,791.

Making payments on the loan has been a major burden on Bellaire schools, taking money that otherwise could have been used to educate children. But by June, just weeks after voters decide another levy request, the burden will be lifted.

Precisely how much money that will free up each year has not been disclosed. Clearly, the amount is substantial.

And that brings us back to the levy referendum. Voters will want to know how much money is being freed up because the state loan is being erased, and how that cash will be used. They also will want assurances the nearly $700,000 in annual levy proceeds will be needed, in addition to revenue that no longer has to go to loan payments.

Unless Bellaire school officials address those questions satisfactorily, they will have little chance of gaining approval of a new levy on May 6.