by Lesley Hodge

Some Fairy tales start with “Once Upon A Time…” and others start with “We are committed to keeping spending increases at 3% or less……”

Looking at the Loveland School Levy from all angles as to make an informed vote, I am struck by how little leverage the voter has to hold the school district accountable to its promise to keep spending in check

Lesley Hodge lives in Symmes Township off of Enyart Road

other than a vote on a levy! The District’s commitment to limit expense growth to 3% or less annually is still double the inflation rate. The district made this promise after raising their baseline expenditures by more than six million dollars in 2019 and on the condition we pass the current levy that will guarantee another $6.225 million per year for eternity. The district says it will have to ask for another levy to increase the operations budget in 2024. And there is the probability of a levy to increase the permanent improvements budget (expenses for items that have a useful life of five years or more) and/or a bond issue for new buildings in the intervening years. We are still currently paying on a loan (building fund) for a 1998, $32 million bond that won’t be paid off until 2025.   

The district says it is making $2.7 million in cuts, but some of those “cuts” are future realized savings and not cuts at all such as the two teachers who would have been hired if the November levy had passed.  Increased pay to play fees aren’t cuts at all. This is misleading. What is being done to reduce baseline spending?

Why would a district cut busing to punish parents when all 30 administrators get pick up on the pick up? (Total cost of pensions and medicare picked up by the public with zero contribution from the administrators). The bottom line is enrollment has declined as the number of administrators has increased and it doesn’t matter what the state average of administrators to pupils is. 

The district’s tale is they need to save the progress they have made. What is the progress that we are really protecting if the spike in expenses, as we are told, was largely due to technology costs, healthcare increases, and textbooks?

In the meantime ordinary citizens have been looking closely at the numbers, camping out in open checkbook and fact-checking the school. The retired auditor/CPA’s article on “Direction Correction” on Loveland Magazine was brilliant! Our district has never been exposed to this level of scrutiny from ordinary grassroots citizens. No wonder there has been a directed effort to silence the voice and message of those calling out that the school has a spending problem, not a funding problem. It is disappointing to read that posts of those arguing one side of the issue are disappearing in certain neighborhood forums, limiting the free exchange of ideas and opinions. So much for honest debate!

As one businessman asked at the February 25th information session – “Why doesn’t the school have an income statement?” This is a great question. We are constantly told how complicated school finance is. An income statement would provide a capsule glance of income and expenditures and be a benefit to the public.

And where is the Loveland Board of Education during this levy campaign given that its own policy manual states: “Within the extent of its legal powers, the Board has responsibilities for operating the District in accordance with the desires of local citizens who elect its members”. Why aren’t they answering citizens’ questions?

When I look at all these things, I feel like I’m seeing and hearing a tale that doesn’t end with “and they all lived happily ever after.”  Instead it ends “and those who could not afford the entitled spending of their local school district and ever higher property taxes were forced to leave the community they had come to because it was once upon a time welcoming and affordable.” 

While strong schools are important, strong communities begin with strong families. The school cannot operate in a vacuum. It must operate within the confines of what the entire community can afford. This requires responsible budgeting and spending. Every year taxes increase and insurance costs rise for all of us. In the end “sustain and optimize” sounds like so much corporate blather. Every voter will either take a leap of faith, trusting the district’s tale that they will keep spending in check – or vote no.

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