“Our analysis of the data indicates that a levy cannot be justified at this time.”
By Kim and Rick Donaldson
Dr. Amy Crouse, Loveland City School District Superintendent, has put together a committee of district residents to advise the Board of Education as to whether an operating levy should be placed on the March ballot, and if so,
Kim and Rick Donaldson live in the Grailville neighborhood of Miami Township
how much it should be. While we are not members of this committee, we are long-time district residents who have taken some time to examine district revenue and expenditure trends available on the Ohio Department of Education website. Our analysis of the data indicates that a levy cannot be justified at this time.
As we have opined in the past, district expenditures need to be limited to levels the community can support. To that end, we have recommended managing total expenditures per pupil, operating and non-operating, to 20 percent of district median income, which is what it was in 2013. From 2013 to 2018 total expenditures have risen
We therefore recommend to the Board of Education that instead of rushing to place a levy on the March ballot, they delve into the details of current spending levels and develop a clear understanding of why increases over the past five years have outstripped median income.
sharply. Operating expenditures alone jumped to 21.2 percent of median income in 2018 after remaining relatively flat around an average of 19.1 percent from 2006 through 2017. While 2.1 percentage points may not sound like much, it represents an 11 percent increase in spending relative to the median income in a single year. Perhaps more alarming is the fact that non-operating expenditures, which include things like land purchase, construction, equipment and interest on the debt, have nearly doubled from 1.2 percent of median income in 2013 to 2.3 percent in 2018. The net result is a 2018 total expenditure per pupil that is 23.6 percent of median income, an 18 percent increase in only 5 years.
Meanwhile, district revenue per pupil since 2015, the first year after the last levy was passed, has averaged 22.2 percent of median income. While this is less than 2018 expenditures, it is significantly more than was expended in any previous year. Our conclusion is that the district’s problem is excessive spending, not insufficient revenue. We, therefore, recommend to the Board of Education that instead of rushing to place a levy on the March ballot, they delve into the details of current spending levels and develop a clear understanding of why increases over the past five years have outstripped median income. If they believe a 2020 levy is justified after having done this assessment, they can put it on the November ballot. The delay would make no difference in terms of cash flow since it would start delivering increased revenue in 2021, the same time a March levy would.
We further recommend Loveland voters not support additional levies until the Board of Education demonstrates a solid grasp of district spending and clearly communicates the justification for recent spending increases and the need for future increases. All such justification must be solidly grounded in measurably improved educational outcomes. If we do not demand more of the Board of Education and district administration, we can expect school taxes to continue to consume an ever-increasing share of our income with little tangible benefit.