Bellaire school officials have tried just about everything during the past three years in attempts to convince voters to provide more money for public education in the village. Now, they are trying again.
Voters have rejected five tax issues, some for higher property levies and others for income taxes, during the three-year period in which school officials have been trying to raise more money. In November, an 8.7-mill property tax proposal was defeated by a margin of about 600 votes.
But in May, school officials will try again. This time, another property tax levy will be on the ballot. It is designed to raise about $961,000 a year for the school district.
Advocates of the levy already have begun organizing a campaign to persuade voters to approve it. As school Superintendent Tony Scott noted, "we need to get the community to rally around us."
Obviously. Despite substantial cuts in spending since the district's fiscal crisis began, a core group of Bellaire voters unwilling to pay higher taxes continues to block them.
During the past three years, the district has eliminated 36 teaching positions, 16 support jobs, four administrators and a school resource officer. That represents a savings of nearly $4 million a year.
"At this point, no doubt the people understand the need," Scott said of the May 7 levy referendum.
But drastic spending cuts in the district were implemented long ago, certainly before the November election handed school officials yet another defeat. Still, just 42.7 percent of voters said yes to the levy.
Assuming voter turnout on May 7 is the same as it was in November, then, proponents of the levy will have to change more than 300 minds in order to pass it. That is quite a tall order.
At one time, school officials were able to merely ask for money and get it from voters. That has not been the case for many years in East Ohio. The situation has prompted advocates of education tax issues to use old-fashioned grassroots organizing and get-out-the-vote strategies.
That will not be enough. As we have noted in the past, the electorate in Bellaire simply is not convinced public education is a good reason to take more money out of their pockets. Many voters think there are better ways for them to spend their hard-earned dollars.
Until and unless they can be convinced otherwise, no amount of political savvy will result in passage of a tax issue for Bellaire schools.