A 4.9 mill operating levy – Issue 4 on your ballot

By Chuck Gibson

LOVELAND, OH (November 3, 2022 – We are just days away from “Election Day”  Tuesday, November 8, when the community of Loveland will decide YES or NO on Issue 4; a 4.9 mill school operating levy.

The same VOTE NO signs used in opposition to Loveland School levy in 2019 back again for 2022 (Chuck Gibson)

It was a resounding NO in November of 2019 when the Loveland City School District (LCSD) placed a 16.6 mill levy on the ballot. Trust & Transparency became the catchwords as those in opposition called for change in the administration and Board of Education. That was then, this is now. Mike Broadwater is in his second year as LCSD Superintendent. Robert Giuffre is serving as treasurer. The five-member board of education has three new members in appointee Kevin Dougherty, and former appointee newly elected Dr. Eric Schwetschenau along with newly elected first time member Jonathan Eilert. Most importantly, this levy placed on the ballot by resolution of the BOE in August of this year is a 4.9 mill levy seeking operating expenses.

VOTE NO signs (three year old signs) with the “Trust” and “Transparency” catch words popped up even before the school board passed the resolution during that August 2nd session.

The campaign, both for and against the levy swung quickly into full gear. The “Citizens for Loveland City Schools” soon had signs of their own popping up all around the community – “Loveland Supports Loveland – Back Our Kids”. Those signs play on emotion. It is a common part of any election or levy campaign across the nation. In the end, the facts are the most important piece of deciding on any candidate or, in this case levy issue. School superintendent Mike Broadwater went out into the community offering “public levy information sessions” on multiple dates in multiple sites.

A “Levy Information” page was set up on the Loveland Schools website providing as much information as anyone cared to learn about the What, Why and How of the levy. Social Media sites from both sides of the issue buzzed with questions, comments and campaign rhetoric.

Part 1 of an information piece distributed by LCSD showing facts about the 4.9 mill operating levy (Chuck Gibson)

So, here we are just a weekend away from Election Day, decision day, even if some have already taken advantage of their early voting option. The question remains Yes or No on Issue 4, but a lot has been said by both sides. Here’s a look at what the community has been asking about the levy, and the LCSD response to those questions posed in many public sessions, email requests and even personal calls/meetings with Superintendent Mike Broadwater.

Some facts about the levy from LCSD:

  • The 4.9 mill levy is being requested to maintain current education programs, fund high school busing and to meet staffing needs.
  • If passed, the levy would cost $14 per month per $100K in home value NOTE: $42 per month or $500 additional tax per year on a $300,000 home.
  • No school levy has been passed for LCSD in 8 years (since 2014)

“We’re trying to maintain, not add bells and whistles. This would maintain current programs and staff.” – Mike Broadwater, Superintendent Loveland City School District

These are programs and staff that have worked hard to achieve a Loveland City Schools ranking in the top 12 Best in State for academic performance. Broadwater’s 36 years in education attest to his commitment to doing what is best for the education of the kids. The report card on LCSD says Loveland is doing very well educating their students. No one seems to question that.

“I never hear criticism of our main business, taking care of the kids,” Broadwater said. “Our product is good. We had a perfect report card.”

Graphic celebrating 5 Star Rating – Perfect Report Card for LCSD (Image provided)

Finances. That is what the community is asking about. The questions about finances come in a variety of forms. Does the levy provide raises for the teachers? The answer is yes. The raises fall into the category of “Maintaining current educational programs” which, at 85%, is the biggest piece of the pie showing how the 4.9 mill operating levy funds will be utilized. Staff salaries, teacher salaries are a part of maintaining current educational programming. It means an equal raise in salaries based on an increase in the budget. 

Fart 2 of information handout from LCSD – this shows the pie chart of how 4.9 mill levy funds will be utilized if passed. (Chuck Gibson)

This is a good place to note Mike Broadwater pointed out Loveland teachers took zero increase in their contract the last two years.The question becomes: Do teachers deserve a raise?

“Yes to that means you just said yes to a levy at some point,” explained Broadwater.

The issue in the State of Ohio is no inflationary adjustment for school revenue. It means the bulk of the burden lands directly on the homeowner through taxes. At least one person in a recent levy information session said he does not “buy into, or understand automatic cost of living raises”. Tom McClurg has not attended any of the information sessions during this school levy campaign. He did attend sessions during the levy campaign which was defeated three years ago. His vote was no then and on all previous and subsequent school levy issues. He is steadfast in his intention to vote no on this levy Tuesday, November 8.

“I am shocked the current legal system, Attorney General allows this on the ballot,” said McClurg. “It is illegal. It is unconstitutional. This is ridiculous.”

McClurg, his wife and family moved here from Colorado 25 years ago. Their own children have long since graduated from Loveland Schools. Again, he’s been a no vote every single year since coming here citing their knowledge tax levy funding of public education was found unconstitutional. It was not that way in Colorado with a system set up to grow with the population and provide necessary funding for the schools there. 

“This system is funded incorrectly, unfair across the state,” McClurg said. “However it is divvied out, I don’t understand it. I don’t trust it.”

He suggested the idea of placing the burden on the backs of the people in every school district across the state is not fair.

“It’s public education,” he said. “There should be a standard independent of socioeconomic levels of the school district. I don’t think it is transparent.”

Vote No sign at a major intersection on Loveland-Madeira Road (Chuck Gibson)

There’s those catch words again; Trust and Transparency being used by McClurg, but in reference to the State of Ohio not providing a good system to fund public education. He admits he “probably got some bad info” three years ago. Good or bad, that information helped him vote a no and to question the school administration and school board members then.

“I think it was right some school board members resigned,” said McClurg. “I think we should clean house. They’ve been there too long. We have members there for 30 years. I don’t believe they should live a career on school board. It’s wrong.”

The current Loveland Board of Education includes five members, three of which are newly elected with only one of the other two having been elected to terms now exceeding 30 years of service to Loveland schools. Broadwater has worked with many different school boards in his 36 years as an educator and says this current school board is “one of the best I’ve ever worked with.”

“The board is not going to let me slide,” said Broadwater.

Trust? 

Without additional revenues, working through pandemic issues, Broadwater and the LCSD students and staff have achieved high academic ranking in the State.

People ask about the high cost per student. Out of 607 districts in Ohio, Loveland is 304th , or right in the middle in spending per student. Compare that to 561st of 607 districts in revenue per student placing Loveland in the bottom 7% of schools for revenue. That means 93% of Ohio schools are receiving, and spending more. In Hamilton County LCSD ranks #20 out of 22 school districts in expenditures.

Mike Broadwater. Superintendent, Loveland City School District (Provided)

Transparency?  

Mike Broadwater has been out to meet with the community. He has responded to calls, met with individuals and responded to emails. He has stood in front of the people in public forums, presented the facts and answered the questions. One thing no one can say they heard is Mike Broadwater telling them how to vote, or even simply asking them to vote YES on November 8.The public information sessions have been just that; public information sessions, not a campaign rally!

“We are being open and honest,” Broadwater said. “It is 4.9 mills to raise $4.9 million dollars with $3.6 million dollar deficit that leaves $1.3 million annually; high school busing is $500K that leaves $800K for raises if you get them.”

Beyond the questions relating to finances (and frankly all the questions relate to finances) the questions were about how Loveland compares to other school districts. The short answer is by every measure, Loveland schools are doing well. The bottom line is this: Mike Broadwater is not telling the community how to vote, but asking the community to tell him what they want LCSD to do to move forward. In contrast, the voices of opposition seem to be telling the community to vote no.

Yes means continuing the programs which have brought academic success for the students. No will require a cut of 50 teaching staff. Broadwater does not want to cut staff.

“This is the best teaching staff I’ve ever worked with,” Broadwater said.

Tom McClurg is passionate and emotional about his no vote. It is the taxes that drive his decision to vote no against the school operating levy. He says he would gladly sponsor a student in a program; get them through it, pay their fees.

“My no vote is against taxes,” McClurg said. “Don’t tax me two or three thousand a year to eternity. I support schools, always have, but I don’t like permanent taxes chipping away at my freedom with no end in sight. It is so wrong.”

Loveland Supports Loveland sign supporting the LCSD levy at major intersection on Loveland-Madeira Road (Chuck Gibson)

Mike Broadwater understands people don’t want to pay tax. He is trying to give the information they ask for, not tell families how to run their finances.  He does not like when people say “Trust” and “Transparency” and believes they owe him a conversation before they say that. At the same time, he says the questions and community have been respectful throughout this information campaign.

“I hope we can get it passed for the kids and get through this stuff,” said Broadwater. “Let us know where we are going. I am proud of where we are. I would like the community to heal and lets’ move forward.”

Yes or No, your vote will decide where the Loveland City School District is going. Cast aside the white noise, get the facts. Cast your vote Tuesday, November 8, Election Day 2022!  

For more on the Loveland School Levy, go to: https://www.lovelandschools.org/domain/305