Several SW Ohio schools are counting on voters to pass levies in May. Here's what to know
Getting levies to pass has not been easy for many schools across Southwest Ohio. In last November's election, 9 out of the 12 local school districts on the ballot failed to pass measures that would secure funding for classroom essentials and resources.
Due to the lack of funding, some school districts have been forced to make difficult decisions with their finances, resulting in significant staff cuts and the reduction of various academic programs.
As budgets tighten in many districts, some school leaders have spoken out and criticized Ohio's school funding model that requires them to constantly ask their community for money to cover basic needs. Now, school districts are fighting hard to make their communities aware of their financial situation and what could be at stake if voters don't approve these levies on Election Day May 2.
Here's what's on the ballot where:
Forest Hills Local Schools: This year, FHSD is asking voters to approve a 6.9 mill combination levy to maintain its current educational programming, avoid deficit spending, and make needed repairs to school buildings.
Regardless of whether or not FHSD's levy passes, the district plans to make significant cuts to stabilize its budget and avoid a negative cash balance by 2026. Forest Hills intends to eliminate a handful of full-time teaching positions at the end of the school year and reduce staff in its summer school program. The district also plans to raise its preschool tuition by $308 per student.
While many in the school community recognize the importance of the levy, a resolution passed by the board of education last year that bans discussions about race in schools divided the community. In recent school board meetings, parents expressed the board's controversial resolution has caused some people to lose faith in school leadership and hold back support for the levy.
If the levy fails, FHSD will have to cut 17 staff positions, raise fees for extracurricular activities, and shrink its transportation department. This reduction would reduce the district's costs by $1.6 million.
Loveland City Schools: In last November's general election, Loveland's proposed 4.9 mill operating levy was not approved by voters. This time, the school district is looking to garner more community support to avoid entering the state's fiscal distress process.
Loveland has not passed a levy in nine years and Superintendent Mike Broadwater says this one is a modest request that will only cover rising operational costs as a result of inflation. If a levy is not passed by voters this year, the district says it will need to increase class sizes and offer fewer courses.
Northwest Local Schools: The current bond issue is the 2nd phase of a master facilities plan to update the district's buildings. If passed, it would raise $168,600,000 for the district over 38 years and fund key projects like renovations, the construction of two new middle schools, and a new Colerain Elementary, which just turned 100 years old.
Northwest Superintendent Darrell Yater says the projects will create better learning environments in the district's elementary schools and address the issue of overcrowding in its middle school buildings. Yater says the bond is spread out over 38 years so the community is paying for the new and updated facilities as they use them, sharing the costs with people who will be utilizing school buildings in the future.
The bond was not approved in the previous November election.
Winton Woods City Schools: The school board has placed another five-year levy on the ballot after previous attempts in last year's elections in May and November failed to get approval from voters.
The levy would bring $3.5 million in additional funding to account for increased enrollment and higher staff wages. The district has not received any additional funding since 2009.
Edgewood City Schools: The school district's treasurer Patti Bowers says Edgewood is forecasted to enter a spending deficit of $1.6 million this year. To address the deficit, the district is asking the community to pass a 1% income tax levy to cover current expenses.
Bowers attributes this deficit to teacher salary increases and inflation. That deficit is expected to increase this year, leading to a forecasted total deficit of $21.9 million by 2028 if the levy does not pass.
Ross Local Schools: In the past two years, Ross Local Schools has cut about $1.8 million from its budget and expects to cut another $600,000 in personnel costs by next school year. The district is currently in deficit spending and its five-year forecast shows that even with significant staffing cuts the deficit could grow to close to $6 million by 2027 if a levy is not passed.
In last November's election, the school attempted to pass a 7.9 mill operating levy, but it was rejected by voters. This year, the district's request from the community has grown to a 9.5 mill, five-year emergency levy to cover its expenses.
In a message to the community earlier this year, Superintendent Chad Konkle said the district would have to fire dozens of employees if this levy is not passed. Ross High School Principal Brian Martin told families last week that students are already feeling the effects of staff cuts in the classroom, and the school could potentially lose numerous extracurricular activities if the financial situation does not improve.
Blanchester Local Schools: In May, Blanchester will have two levies on the ballot. The first is a 1% income tax over five years to cover current expenses. The other is a 5.2 mill permanent improvement levy estimated to amount to over $1 million for the district each year and would generate revenue for five years.
The 1% income tax will provide the school with funds for staff salaries, transportation and classroom materials. Blanchester also intends to use the levy to strengthen its transportation department and provide bus services for more of its students.
If passed, the improvement levy will help the district move forward with the purchase of 84 new passenger buses, make safety upgrades to its buildings, and renovate both outdoor and indoor facilities.
Carlisle Local Schools: District treasurer Dan Bassler says he's confident the community will pass Carlisle's five-year renewal levy. The levy was previously passed in 2013 and 2018. It will not increase taxes, and the plans generate close to $1 million in funds annually for the school district.
Bassler says the levy only intends to maintain current operations and will help the district avoid falling into a deficit. If passed, it will not need to be renewed again until 2028.
Franklin City Schools: After failing to renew its substitute levy in the fall, Franklin City Schools says it will need to pass this time or the district will have to reduce its budget by $1.9 million. This means cutting 10 teaching positions and eliminating staff in other areas like media and technology, as well as kitchen staff.
Additionally, Franklin would have to get rid of its full-day kindergarten program, increase fees for extracurricular activities and reduce its transportation services. The levy would not increase taxes.
- Xenia Community Schools: This renewal levy would create $5 million for Xenia Schools and plans to keep the district's funding at its current levels to support its day-to-day operations. It would not increase taxes.