With the Nov. 5 election less than a month away, volunteers with the Committee for Bexley Excellence, the awareness campaign for the Bexley City School District levy, is holding a series of public information sessions.
If voters approve, the 9-mill levy would result in an annual cost of an additional $315 per $100,000 of a residence's market value, according to district treasurer Kyle Smith's estimations. Franklin County Auditor Michael Stinziano has certified the levy would generate about $5 million in its first year of collection in 2020.
Since voters approved the district's last 6.5-mill operating levy in 2010, the district's enrollment has grown by 18 percent and is projected to continue to grow by another 10 percent in the next five to 10 years, Superintendent Kimberly Pietsch Miller said at a Sept. 30 information session at the Bexley Public Library.
The levy funding would be used to execute the goals in the strategic plan the district adopted last year, Miller said.
"Bexley, like every school district, is a service organization," she said. "Eighty percent of our cost is people. We deliver everything that we do through our staff, whether it's coaching a football team or teaching a first-grader to read, we need people to do it. And that's why we're on the ballot for this operating levy."
According to the five-year forecast from May 2019 posted on the district's website, bexleyschools.org, the district anticipates revenue of $35,503,764 for fiscal year 2019, with expenditures of $39,859,115. For fiscal year 2020, it anticipates revenue of $36,671,848 and expenditures of $41,477,677. By fiscal year 2023, the district anticipates revenue of $37,453,288 with expenditures of $46,871,273, a difference of $9,417,985 in deficit spending. The district is in deficit spending all five years of the forecast.
The district has cash reserves it can use to operate, but if it were to do that, the district's forecast shows the unreserved fund balances facing reductions from $17,098,792 in fiscal year 2019 to $12,292,963 in fiscal year 2020 to $5,889,303 in fiscal year 2021 and being a negative $1,933,926 in fiscal year 2022.
According to the levy report posted on the district's website, district voters have passed nine operating levies since May 1985, starting with one for 8.5 mills, and failed two of them, one for 8.5 mills in May 1994 and one for 8.75 mills in May 2003. The largest operating levy passed was one for 9.5 mills in May 1991. The district's 0.75% income-tax issue passed in November 2004.
Vernon Road resident Natalie Yang, who was the sole attendee at the Sept. 30 information session, said she and her husband, Charles, don't have any children. Yang, who has lived in Bexley for two and a half years, said she attended the session to find out how the levy would affect the future of the Bexley City Schools in the event she and her husband decide to start a family.
Yang said her questions were answered by attending the session, but added, "I wish there were some experienced residents (in attendance) who asked questions I could learn from."
One question Yang asked is what would happen if the levy doesn't pass.
Miller said the levy's failure would result in the district having to cut $2 million to $3 million out of the annual budget. She said the cuts could force the district to reevaluate class sizes, reduce the number of athletic teams and eliminate courses not required by the Ohio Department of Education, such as elementary-level Spanish.
"You're immediately cutting services to students and you're cutting staff, because 80 percent of our costs are staff. As you cut staff, you cut services and programs. How do we do that? We would take a look at what's not required," Miller said. "We don't have a list of 'this, this and this.' We will have to take a look at the needs of students and we will have to take a look at legislative requirements."
Ted Cahill, chairman of the Committee for Bexley Excellence, said previous information sessions held in September were better attended than the Sept. 30 session at the library, and the Rosh Hashana holiday may have been a factor.
He said public reaction to the levy has been mostly positive. When volunteers canvassed Bexley neighborhoods the last weekend in September, he said, more than 100 residents expressed support for the levy, versus seven who expressed opposition.
"There's no organized opposition against it," Cahill said, but the campaign is doing everything to raise awareness and encourage residents to vote on Nov. 5.
The Committee for Bexley Excellence will hold another information session at 6:30 p.m. Wednesdsay, Oct. 16, at Bexley High School, 326 S. Cassingham Road.
For more about the levy, visit bexleyexcellence.com.