Discussion centered on answers to real school funding issues

By Chuck Gibson  

LOVELAND, OH (January 24, 2023) – It took less than 20 minutes to get the first Loveland citizen up to speak at the Loveland Schools “Town Hall” meeting Monday evening, January 23rd.

First to speak was Walter Golladay and after looking directly out into an audience – estimated to be more than 50, but less than 100 members of the Loveland community – asking if some are retired like him, he then began talking about an earned income tax as an option to help fund public education in Loveland. School Board member Dr. Eric Schwetschenau responded with a clarification of the difference between an earned income tax and a traditional income tax. In short, earned income tax excludes such things as retirement income thus not affecting those living on a fixed income while a traditional income tax collects from a wider range of income sources including retirement income. A key difference for funding schools would be a likely higher amount of funds from traditional versus a lower amount from an earned income tax.  

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

That was the beginning of a meeting lasting just under two hours with lengthy discussion from both sides of the levy issue showing respect for one another according to Superintendent Mike Broadwater. 

“I think a lot of information got out,” said Broadwater. “Individuals from both sides spoke. I give credit to the people who showed up to talk and be part of it. I give them all the credit in the world for wanting to be part of a solution. Everybody was respectful.”

He said there was a lengthy discussion about those different forms of tax, fixed levy or continuing levy.

NOTE: You can watch and listen to the full recording of the Monday, January 23, 2023 LCSD Town Hall meeting by following this link the Loveland Schools YouTube page here.

In those first 19 minutes opening the meeting, Mike Broadwater reviewed information previously presented at the school board meeting last Thursday, January 19th.  He addressed what the Loveland City School District (LCSD) has already done, cuts made, and the three proposed school tax levy amounts for a May 2023 ballot.

“I reviewed what we did at the board meeting the prior week in regards to what are the cuts that we’ve already done,” Broadwater explained, “and then what are the three (levy choices) the 4.2, 4.9 and 6.5 we finally landed on for recommendations for the levy.”

Broadwater delivered his presentation in an efficient manner allowing the floor to be turned over to the community in less than 20 minutes. He was pleased with the turnout describing the attendance as more people than the January 5th Town Hall. At the same time the crowd fell in line with the typical turnout of 50 -75 community members for public forums (Town Hall’s) held in the recent past. 

“I was pleased with the turnout,” he said. “I don’t know how many people watched the YouTube. I think we’re up to a couple hundred people, but I was pleased with the number of people there.”

For the record, YouTube statistics show 299 views of the Town Hall video by 11 a.m. Tuesday morning.  That was the latest number available at the time of this writing. The most encouraging take away by Mike Broadwater seems to be the engagement of the community; both those who support the levy and those who have expressed opposition. His goal has been to share the truth of the financial situation for the LCSD. He believes now more of the people are beginning to understand and see an accurate view of the school finances.

“I think people are starting to understand that November levy was to run things appropriately,” said Broadwater. “I think they can tell from my tone, we’ve got a problem now. We are entering the stage where we are going to have to start talking about cuts again.”

At this point, it is probably fair to say nobody wants a levy, but the reality is one is needed for operation costs. Broadwater points to the reality you cannot sustain the schools on a budget from a decade ago. It has been more than 10 years now since there was an increase in revenue for the Loveland Schools. He believes the people know it and likely some want the 6.5 mill levy, while others might say 4.2 and still others some other number or zero.

“Like I said, talking to people in November, $4.9 mill in November would have got you a lot more than $4.9 now because you have to wait a whole additional year,” Broadwater said. “I think people can tell from the tone in my voice I am really concerned right now; for our schools and our community because this is going to affect their community greatly.”

Broadwater is not comfortable in the role, and does not like to be the one telling the realities of the threat of cuts. Of course, we all know “threats” is the term people will use when those difficult options are discussed by the superintendent or school board members.

“I call them realities,” Broadwater said. “But that’s where we are headed now. We’re going to have to look at what’s the reality of what our schools are going to look like.”

Broadwater reaffirmed his efforts to keep a positive tone, but readily admits to being worried now. He worries because he hears the concerns of people wanting to be reassured their child will get the best education opportunities available. The “Town Hall” turnout and cooperative effort seeking solutions by the community Monday night helped give him a sense a May levy could pass giving LCSD the necessary operating funds to maintain without further cuts while working hard to find funding solutions for the future which will not overburden the taxpayers and divide the community.

“It’s starting to affect the community,” said Broadwater. “People I’ve talked to who were in opposition in prior years are really starting to understand this has gone a bit too far. It’s been almost a decade since we’ve had any substantial additional revenue and we just can’t continue. The realization is it’s going to affect kids.”

That brings us to next Tuesday, January 31st, and the Loveland Board of Education meeting. Note also Wednesday, February 1st is the deadline to submit a levy for the May ballot. They will receive a recommendation to place one of the three certified levy proposals ($4.2,$4.9, or $6.5 mill) on the May ballot or none at all. Mike Broadwater cannot speak for what they’ll decide and would not speculate on any decision they might, or might not make. The same goes for board member Dr. Eric Schwetschenau when asked if he had a sense for what the BOE will do Tuesday night.

Dr. Eric Schwetschenau, Member LCSD Board of Education (Provided)

“I can only speak as one board member, so it is impossible for me to suggest I know what the board will decide,” said Schwetschenau. “At our next meeting we will be voting to move one or none of the three levy amounts that we asked to be certified to be placed in front of the voters in May. I have no sense at all which of the three is preferred by most of the members. I cannot say with any certainty  that a majority would vote to move any levy amount forward.”

CLICK HERE to watch the full Town Hall video (Approx run time 1:59: 30)

More on Loveland Schools at: www.lovelandschools.org