This FAQ will be updated continuously. Please check back often.
Updated: April 21, 2020
Why does the district have an operating levy on the ballot during this time of coronavirus crisis?
Although the timing is unfavorable, it doesn’t change the need for additional funding to protect the future of our schools. It’s been six years since the district last passed an operating levy, which is a long time for any business to operate without increased revenue. After the November 2019 levy failure, the Loveland Board of Education - with the input of a community-based ad hoc advisory committee - considered options going forward to ensure the schools would be funded sufficiently. With a board of election submission deadline of December 18, the Board of Education passed a resolution of necessity on December 10 to place a 6.95-mill operating levy on the March 2020 ballot. This decision, which was made several months before the coronavirus crisis had manifested in our country, was immediately followed by work to identify $2.7 million in district reductions to accompany the levy ask. These reductions included the elimination of 13 staff positions and increases in tuition, technology, and pay-to-participate fees, and will not change or be reinstated even if the March (now April) ballot passes. Failure in the current election will mean that a minimum of 25 additional staff members will lose their jobs, that high school transportation will be eliminated, and that there will be significant, additional increases in fees. It is a critical time for the district, with no option other than asking voters to determine whether the schools will be funded sufficiently to provide the current level of service going forward. If the ballot initiative is successful, funds will not be collected until January 2021.
What does “sustain and optimize” mean?
The 6.95-mill operating levy will sustain the programs and services the schools have put in place over the past several years, and which have resulted in significant progress in student achievement. It’s not for “extras,” but to allow the schools to continue to enable excellent outcomes for our Loveland students. The district has committed to reducing costs even further, by optimizing current resources and keeping spending increases below 3% per year going forward. The board will also work with a community planning commission to investigate opportunities to increase income without raising local property taxes and research effective practices in reducing expenditures. Note: The Loveland Schools treasurer’s office has repeatedly earned recognition for its excellent work. The Ohio Auditor of State recently returned the latest clean audit report, resulting in the fifth consecutive annual “Auditor of State Award” for meeting a list of specific criteria, including the timely filing of all financial reports in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), and no comments of concern as it relates to district finances, public meetings or public records.
What is the district doing to monitor costs during the pandemic?
Our guiding principle is that all non-essential expenses are continually under review and action is taken to eliminate them wherever possible. However, the current school building closure doesn’t change the district’s monthly expenses significantly. Savings are temporarily captured by lower utility bills, reduced fuel cost for transportation, and the absence of overtime and additional substitute pay. Since 83% of the budget goes to pay for salaries and benefits, these savings make up a relatively small portion of the total operating budget. Although the buildings are closed, school operations continue - we are providing remote learning, a multitude of services to our students, and maintaining the buildings and business operations. It is important to note that some expenses have increased while some revenue streams have decreased, such as for food services. We continually monitor all of our expenses and revenues during this time in keeping with our standard practice.
The transition to remote learning during the health crisis has been expedited and facilitated by the work the district was able to do with the community’s investment six years ago - the operating levy passed in 2014 was specifically intended to strengthen programs and services for students, including technology. The “One-to-World” Chromebook program, part of the broader Tiger Innovation focus since the passage of the levy, is now the foundation for the successful implementation of remote education during this time of school building closure. Because of the “One-to-World” programs, students in 7th to 12th grade already had a device and students in lower grades in need of a device (over 300) had one delivered to their home. Hotspots were also delivered to students in need of internet connectivity due to existing programs already in place. Finally, the consistent technology platforms the district has implemented have enabled a smoother transition to remote learning and an increased sense of stability for our Tigers.
What is the levy for?
This levy is for operating funds to pay for day-to-day expenses, such as utility bills, supplies, busing, salaries and benefits for staff, and to maintain the academic improvements established over the past several years. The district is using a combination of the new levy request and reduction of $2.7 million in expenditures to continue academic momentum while curbing expenses. This levy is not for building plans.
How much will the levy cost home owners?
The 6.95 millage rate translates into $20.27/month ($243.25 annually) per $100,000 of appraised home value as determined by the county auditor. To understand exactly how much the district’s 6.95-mill operating levy will cost your household, you will need to know your home’s appraised (or fair market) value as determined by your county auditor. Go to your local county auditor’s website and do a real estate property search:
To find the appraised value, referred to as “Market Value,” go to “Tax Distributions” in the right column.
Please note that the assessed value, which is used by the auditor to determine your tax obligation, is 35% of the appraised or market value. A home that is appraised at $100,000 is taxed on only $35,000:
$35,000 x .00695*= $243.25/annually, or 243.25÷12=$20.27/monthly
*.00695 equals the millage rate of 6.95.
What happens if this levy passes?
A passed levy will provide the needed support for school operations, including sustaining educational programs for students. The levy,
along with approximately $2.7 million* of reductions in expenditures, will allow the district to continue academic momentum while simultaneously curbing expenses. The district will continuously seek ways to reduce expenses. After 2021, the Board is committed to limiting the average annual growth in expenditures to 3% or less to extend the levy beyond three years. (Update: The Board formalized this commitment by passing a resolution at the February 18, 2020 business meeting. It will limit annual expenditure growth of the district’s general fund to an average annualized 2.64% for fiscal years ’21 through ’24, according to the new baseline of projected expenditures for fiscal year ’20. See article here
What happens if the levy fails?
If the March levy fails, the district has a fiscal responsibility to enter into the new school year with significant adjustments to the budget due to uncertain funding.
Additional cuts affecting programs, class size, and services to students will be made. If the district fails to pass an operating levy in 2020, it will have to make approximately $3 million of additional cuts in 2021. Some of these cuts will happen before the start of the 2020-21 school year and include the reduction of a minimum of 25 staff members:
- Additional elimination of administrators, including athletics, through reorganization after anticipated resignations, retirements or reduction, and reduction in administrative and clerical support.
- Elimination of Loveland High School transportation per Ohio Revised Code 3327.01., including non-public routes, resulting in the elimination of classified staff.
- Elimination of teaching positions through reductions and reorganization of programs, affecting music, physical education, media centers/library, and gifted services.
- Elimination of instructional coaches (teaching positions), resulting in further reductions in teacher development and supports.
- Additional increases in pay-to-participate fees for student activities.
- Further reductions in department and building budgets.
What is an operating levy?
An operating levy is used to provide money for a school district’s day-to-day operating expenses, including utilities, supplies and salaries/benefits for staff.
What is a “mill?”
A mill is the unit of value for expressing the rate of property taxes in Ohio. It is defined as 1/10 of a percent or 1/10 of a cent (0.1 cent). “Millage” is the factor applied to the assessed value of property to produce tax revenue.
Why a continuing (“permanent”) levy?
Local property tax funding does not increase with inflation or higher property values - it remains flat from year to year unless a new levy is voted in. This is due to Ohio House Bill (HB) 920, which freezes the district’s income by reducing the taxes charged by a voted levy to offset increases in the value of real property. It means that although property values may increase while a permanent levy is in effect, the amount of taxes collected on those properties does not increase. As inflation drives up the value of real property, the auditor reduces the school tax rate so the money going to the schools does not exceed the amount collected in the first year of levy collections. (The reduced rate at which taxes are collected is called the “effective millage.”) Inflation, however, does not only drive up the value of property, it also causes the cost of the day-to-day operations of schools to increase. The state continues to put the responsibility of funding public schools on local communities - keeping up with inflation is impossible under HB 920 and the flat state funding model, and school districts in Ohio generally have to return to their tax payers for additional revenue every three to five years.
From 2016 to 2019, the Loveland City School District local property tax funding decreased by .41%, while residential property values increased by 10.21%.
What is House Bill 920?
Ohio has a law, known as House Bill 920, that keeps school tax collection flat. Basically, this means that school taxes do not increase when home values increase so the total amount collected by the school district on an existing levy stays the same. To find out more, watch this brief video
in which the district treasurer, Kevin Hawley, explains state funding.
How long does the funding from a levy last?
The last operating levy for Loveland Schools was passed by voters in 2014 and promised to last four years. It has now been more than five years since the district started receiving tax collections on the 2014 operating levy.
The combination of the March 2020 6.95-mill request, $2.7 million in expenditure reductions, and a commitment by the Board of Education to limit the annual expenditure growth to 3% or less will allow the funding from this levy to last four years before the district will need to return to voters for additional operating funds. The district has committed to continually seek opportunities for efficiency gains, allowing further reductions in expenditures.
What happens to the construction projects outlined in the master plan?
The Board of Education has paused on the facility master plan while the district works on alternatives for how to meet the school facility needs. The district will not be on the ballot for a building plan in 2020. On January 21, 2020, the Loveland City Schools Board of Education voted to cancel the contract with the Grail, an Ohio nonprofit, for the option to purchase 110 acres of Grailville - a property located on O’Bannonville Road east of downtown Loveland. The land would have accommodated a new campus for Pre-K through 5th grade according to the facility master plan created in 2018-19. (Notice of termination of option to purchase
Has student enrollment in the district increased or decreased over time?
Enrollment in the district fluctuates annually, but shows a flat trend line for the past decade*:
*See the official enrollment report from the Ohio Department of Education here. This report can be generated by visiting the School Report Card on the Ohio Department of Education’s website and running an “advanced report” specifically for enrollment in the Loveland City School District.
DISTRICT FINANCES and ACCOUNTABILITY
BOARD OF EDUCATION