GUEST COLUMN: From Loveland City School District Superintendent Amy Crouse is to provide LSCD voters with information to help make an informed decision at the polls
Dr. Amy Crouse is the Superintendent of the Loveland City School District (Provided)
Dear Loveland City School District Residents,
Loveland Schools have an operating levy on the March 17 ballot. This letter is to provide you with information to help you make an informed decision at the polls and to let you know of additional avenues to seek facts about the financial situation of the schools and why this operating levy is needed now. I encourage you to attend the Community Information Session on Tuesday, February 25, and to take advantage of the opportunities to meet with myself and our District Treasurer, Mr. Kevin Hawley, to learn more. (See dates and times at the end of this letter.)
Improvements in Our Schools
Loveland voters last passed an operating levy for the schools in 2014. The district has since implemented changes to expand offerings to our students and improve the student experience. We have invested in the recruitment and retention of the best teachers, staff and administrators, and in the training of our employees. The return on your investment can be found in student achievement data, staff retention data, increased services, and numerous accolades and awards won over the past several years. Even with the deliberate investment that has resulted in these excelled outcomes, the district’s per-pupil expenditure remains at the state average.
Challenge of School Funding
The outcome of the November levy was a clear message from the community that affordability as it relates to local funding of our schools must be addressed. It is important to note why school districts in Ohio return to voters for operating funds every three to five years on average: Ohio House Bill (HB) 920 freezes the schools’ income by reducing the taxes charged by a voted levy to offset increases in the value of real property. In other words, although property values may increase while a permanent levy is in effect, the amount of taxes collected on those properties does not increase over time. As property values go up, the auditor reduces the school tax rate so the money funding the schools does not exceed the amount collected in the first year of the levy collections. Consequently, local school funding remains flat from year to year unless a new levy is voted in. Inflation, however, does not only drive up the value of property, it also causes increases in the day-to-day operation of the schools. Keeping up with the increasing costs over time is the real challenge of our schools under HB 920 and the current state funding model.
Sustain and Optimize
The Loveland Board of Education has developed both a short-term and a long-term plan to address the concerns of property owners: The short-term plan is necessary to sustain the programs and supports that have generated the outstanding student results over the past several years. At the center of the short-term plan is the 6.95-mill operating levy request on March 17. The funds generated from this levy will pay for day-to-day costs of the schools, including utilities, classroom supplies and salaries and benefits for staff, in order to maintain the progress made. The levy is not to build new facilities.
The cost of the levy is $243.25/year ($20.27/month) per $100,000 of appraised home value, with collections beginning in January 2021. In combination with this ask, the district is making $2.7 million in expenditure reductions, which will occur regardless of the outcome of the election. The Board has also committed to keeping the annual growth of our expenditures to 3% or less and to not return to voters for additional operating funds for at least four years. The long-term plan includes working with the community to find ways to reduce our expenditures and to optimize the resources we currently have. For example, the board intends to put in place a community-based planning commission to engage and utilize the expertise of residents in a range of areas: finance, facilities, school experience/improvement, communication and engagement.
What Happens if the March Levy Fails?
Without a clear picture of what our financial future holds, the school district will have to make significant reductions to expenditures beyond the $2.7 million already made, before the 2020-21 school year begins. A failed levy in March will result in the elimination of high school busing, including non-public routes, further increases in pay-to-participate fees, and reductions and reorganizations of programs that will affect music, physical education, media centers/libraries and gifted services. These reductions will affect programs, class size, and supports to students, and the elimination of a minimum of 25 additional staff member positions.
Feel free to call the Board of Education office at (513) 683-5600 with questions. I also hope that you will attend the Community Information Session and the informal discussion opportunities listed below between now and March 17.
I appreciate your support for our Loveland students and schools.
Dr. Amy Crouse, Superintendent
Opportunities to learn more
District website levy page: https://www.lovelandschools.org/March2020Levy.aspx
Community Information Session
Tuesday, February 25, 6:00 p.m. (LMS/LIS Cafeteria 757 S. Lebanon Road)
Ask the Superintendent/Treasurer
Wednesday, February 19, 4-6 p.m. at Tropical Smoothie Café (10689 Loveland Madeira Rd.)
Thursday, March 5, 8-10 a.m. at Branch Hill Coffee (371 Bridge Street)
Monday, March 9, 4-6 p.m. at The Works (20 Grear Millitzer Pl.)