The main topic of discussion continues to be funding for the schools. Following three consecutive levy defeats at the polls, staff cuts and cutting high school busing, Superintendent Mike Broadwater, and Interim Treasurer Robert Giuffre presented an up-to-date view of the current budget and forecast for the future operation of LCSD to the members of the board of education and public in attendance. The full recording of the meeting and discussion is available for public viewing by clicking this link.
It all breaks down to a need for more revenue. It means once again the community of Loveland will likely face a school tax levy on the ballot in May. Following the meeting Thursday night, interim treasurer Robert Giuffre is tasked with drafting tax levy resolutions of 4.2, 4.9, and 6.5 mills.
“They’ll be sent to the county auditor for certification,” said Giuffre. “There is a ‘Town Hall’ on Monday night (January 23). The purpose of those resolutions is to give voice because there are folks that want 6.5, folks that don’t want anything and folks that want something in between. So it gives them voice to have that conversation so the board can listen to them.”
The “Town Hall” meeting Monday, January 23, will have two board members, Dr. Eric Schwetschenau and Dr. Kathy Lorenz, present along with the superintendent Mike Broadwater and interim treasurer Robert Giuffre.
Next, at their Tuesday, January 31, meeting, the school board will consider which one of the three levies drafted, if any, will be placed on the May ballot. The deadline to do so is the next day, February 1. The decision belongs to the board and they can say no. That would come with consequences just as the failed November levy has brought consequences Superintendent Mike Broadwater spoke of then and now.
“We are where we thought we’d be,” said Broadwater. “In November, we said if it doesn’t pass there is still going to be a need for additional revenue and a 4.9 (mill levy) will not get you the same thing it got you in November. The 4.9 now is we had to take back the high school busing, the five FTE’s and the contingency just for 4.9 – it still doesn’t get us out of deficit spending.”
Good or bad, right or wrong, in the State of Ohio public revenue for public education funding comes primarily from property taxes levied against homeowners and commercial business within the school district communities. Simple fact, but arguably it is not a sustainable solution, especially for taxpayers like us. Short of identifying misappropriation of funds, which all evidence shows is not the case in the Loveland City School District, nor is there any evidence to support excessive spending. The fact is LCSD is rated well below average in cost per student (translated, that means Loveland Schools spend less per student than most other school districts throughout Ohio) The most recent report card also ranks Loveland Schools at the top in academic performance for Ohio. Mike Broadwater explained in simplest terms: Loveland students/families are getting more for their money.
“If you look at any financial metric for Loveland City School District, we are below average; below the average of any other district this size,” said Broadwater. “In other words, expenditure per pupil: below average, revenue per pupil: below average. And, we are #1 in the State, by their metric, with a perfect report card. I would say you get a pretty good bang for your buck. Academically we are regarded as one of the best in the State of Ohio.”
Think about that. Every financial metric; expenses and revenue LCSD is below average, but academically Loveland Schools is ranked as best in the state with a perfect report card. That points directly to a revenue problem, not an expense problem. Cutting expenses is not the answer to creating revenue to fund high performing academics.
Broadwater pointed out they’ve taken steps beyond the staff cuts and busing cuts including adding, or increasing participation fees for the extracurriculars. He is hesitant to speak of these “cutting” solutions because they are often deemed as “threats” by the community. It is why the finance committee worked on Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day preparing information to present at the meeting Thursday night.
“So Rob and I and Eric Schwetschenau and Kevin Dougherty; that’s the finance committee, sat down on Monday went through adjusted the forecast; took out the five FTE’s, took out the contingency, took out the high school busing added the Symmes TIF and we’re still right where the projection was going to be because you have inflation and we’re not able to adjust inflation.”
The alternative then becomes the State of Ohio stepping in. Broadwater doesn’t want to say that, or see that, and believes no one in Loveland wants to be there. He cited the example of nearby Kings School District telling their community they would cut 10 percent of their staff, cut high school busing, and raise participation fees. The Loveland City School District has already done that cutting 50 staff, cutting high school busing and raising participation fees two years ago.
“You can’t cut your way out of a decade of not getting any additional revenue,” Broadwater said. “You’d have to cut 30 staff members every year to get additional revenue; we still have kids showing up, you can’t do that. I never want to decide on a threat, but it’s where we are headed.”
Mike Broadwater hopes Loveland Schools voters, both for and against any school tax levy, are headed to the “Town Hall” meeting this Monday night January 23. It is the proper venue for the community to listen and learn the facts of the situation and then speak up and be heard so the school board can make an informed decision on Tuesday, January 31. It is a public forum where both sides can present information and respond respectfully in a productive and safe environment to help bring light to possible solutions for the school district.
Sadly, a citizen chose to speak out during the meeting Thursday, January 19. He offered words best described as inflammatory and threatening saying the Loveland community is “poised to explode, someone is going to get hurt sooner or later”.
He went on to say the issue has become “very personal to both sides” and addressing the board said: “you’ll be responsible for that tragic event should it occur”. You can listen to his exact words at approximately 11 minutes into the recorded meeting here. His words held such an inflammatory and threatening tone others who witnessed it have expressed concern for the safety of school officials and students.
On a softer note, Robert Giuffre shared the story of Loveland students speaking at a previous “Town Hall” held January 5th.
“The last ‘Town Hall’ meeting, I had a tissue right here because when our kids got up and spoke, I’m not smooth at all, the messaging and the way they said what they said was…” he trailed off then picked up again with how we all try to find best ways to “give” of our resources. “So were the kids: I had this coming up through the system and I want to make sure my sister has it. Whether it is Tigers Inc., a foreign language course, it’s benefitting me. The selflessness of these kids, to be there, but then the words come out of their mouth. It’s humbling. It’s extraordinary.”
The kids will speak at the “Town Hall” meeting Monday, January 23.
“I think it is good to hear from the kids and how it affects them,” Broadwater said. “A lot of times these discussions are adults and we’re forgetting what we are really having these discussions about. It’s their future and it does affect them. It’s easy to talk about cuts until you have kids in front of you and you see the effect of the cut. I wish more people in opposition would show up so we can have that conversation. They showed up Thursday night at the board meeting, but we don’t interact in a business meeting. That’s the purpose of a ‘Town Hall’; to have people show up and ask us the tough questions so we can respond. I hope they’ll show up. Anytime we can have a conversation with the community, it is a good thing.”