By Kim and Rick Donaldson
As a community, we support the goal of providing high-quality education for our children. But we also need to consider affordability. Loveland is largely a residential community whose local tax burden falls primarily on individual homeowners who are somewhat less affluent than those in surrounding districts. Whereas a one mil property tax raises about $228 per student in Mariemont, $249 in Madeira, $339 in Sycamore and $607 in Indian Hill, it raises only about $191 per student in Loveland. Consequently, we need to recognize that our school budgets are necessarily more limited, and just as a family with a limited budget must prioritize needs and manage money wisely, so must the school district. The proposed building master plan does not, in our opinion, adequately address these budget constraints.
We wonder what other cost reduction opportunities we might find were we provided with a more detailed plan.
In the board of education’s January 23rdcommunity meeting presentation, there is a single slide showing a $65M baseline plan for repairs at all existing building sites, which was rejected because it “does NOT address any of the core identified needs that were discovered during the assessment process.” After evaluating multiple options for addressing these “needs”, the board settled on a $165M plan and a $7.7M land purchase, i.e. $108M more than the baseline plan. From the very high-level cost breakdown subsequently provided by the administration, we can see that the plan includes $10M for athletic facility upgrades and $22.6M for a new fine arts building. That’s 30% of the incremental cost over the baseline plan going toward enrichment programs affecting a subset of the students, not to fundamental academic programs affecting the entire student body. We wonder what other cost reduction opportunities we might find were we provided with a more detailed plan.
To arrive at a more cost-effective solution, we need to start again from the beginning with clear priorities regarding what is needed, as opposed to what is wanted.
To arrive at a more cost-effective solution, we need to start again from the beginning with clear priorities regarding what is needed, as opposed to what is wanted. Building safety and security come first, followed by those facility improvements that have a proven impact on academic achievement. Increasing classroom space to enable reducing the student to teacher ratio might fall into the latter category. We then need to develop facility concepts that satisfy these needs in a manner that minimizes both construction and future operational costs. For example, the current facility master plan envisions three separate buildings for pre-K through 5thgrade. Combining these into a single building would reduce construction costs, reduce heating and cooling costs and maximize the opportunity for sharing resources and occasional use spaces like cafeterias, gymnasiums, and auditoriums. A two- or three-story building would also provide the opportunity to use an existing site, eliminating the cost of land purchase and development.
These are just a few ideas meant to illustrate the point. Given the right set of objectives and constraints, the district’s architectural consultants would undoubtedly come up with more and better ideas. But the first step toward developing a school facility plan that strikes a reasonable balance between the educational needs of our children and the financial limitations of the community is to vote against the Loveland school levy and bond issue on November 5th.
January 23, 2019 Community Meeting Presentation: https://secureservercdn.net/126.96.36.199/f0o.a87.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/CM3-01.23.19-Slide-Deck.pdf