Learn About the Combination Levy Request
FHSD Levy on May 2, 2023 Ballot
Voters approved the 6.9 mill combination levy on May 2, 2023. You can read the district\'s official statement and a letter Superintendent Hook shared with families here.
The Forest Hills Board of Education unanimously moved to place a 6.9 mill combination levy on the May 2, 2023 ballot for voter consideration. This page serves as a resource to the community by providing factual information regarding the levy and the district’s finances. Please check regularly as this page will be updated as new information becomes available.
Click the menu button (three stacked horizontal lines) at the top left of this section to find additional levy webpages that provide more details on key topics.
Questions? Reach Out!
You can reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, comments or concerns about the levy request and a staff member from FHSD will respond.
You can call FHSD Central Office at (513) 231-3600 during normal business hours (Mon.-Fri. 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.).
You can also feel free to reach out to our superintendent or treasurer with any questions. Depending on the volume of questions, we will do our best to respond!
- WATCH: Live Levy Presentation and Q&A (read a recap here)
- WATCH: Informational Levy Videos
- Informational Levy Presentation Slides
- Article: Superintendent Lays Out Specifics for Levy-Related Reductions (3/15/23)
- Article: Superintendent Details Levy Reduction Scenarios to Board (2/15/23)
- Article: FHSD Board Approves 6.9 Mill Levy for May Ballot (1/18/23)
- Letter from the Superintendent - January 19, 2023
- FHSD's Five-Year Forecast
- Article: District Financial Health Update - October 2022 (10/19/22)
- FHSD Priority Maintenance Plan
Check back for additional links as this website section is expanded.
The Forest Hills Board of Education has approved a 6.9 mill combination levy for the May 2023 ballot. This includes a 5.4 mill operating levy and a 1.5 mill permanent improvement levy. By law, the operating levy funds can be used for any general purpose related to the operation of the district and the permanent improvement levy funds can be used for any property, asset, or improvement with an estimated life or usefulness of five years or more (building updates, roofs, parking lots, heating and cooling systems, or new buses or technology.)
Based on the district’s current five-year forecast, operational costs are projected to surpass funding by the end of this school year (May 2023). School districts in Ohio cannot operate in deficit spending so that means without an increase in revenue the district will be required to implement significant cost reductions. This financial situation is due to a significant increase in expenses as a result of inflation, the state of Ohio’s unconstitutional funding model and other factors.
What will this levy cost me?
The 6.9 mill proposal would cost $20.13 per month for a home valued at $100,000. The levy cost is based on the market value of a home, as assessed by the Hamilton County Auditor.
Home Value: $100,000
Cost Per Month: $20.13
Home Value: $200,000
Cost Per Month: $40.26
Home Value: $300,000
Cost Per Month: $60.39
Follow these steps to find the exact amount for your home:
- Visit the Hamilton County Auditor's website.
- Click "Property Search" on the left side of the page.
- Search for your property by address or name.
- Click the "Levy Information" link on the right side of your property page. The levy information tab now shows a projection of what the levy will cost in taxes on an annual basis for your property.
What will this levy fund?
The 5.4 mill operating levy will fund existing costs and educational programs. It does not provide funding for any additional staff or programming that is not already in place, but it will allow FHSD to retain its talented teachers and staff members, as well as purchase textbooks and other educational materials and supplies to maintain the current level of services offered at FHSD.
The 1.5 mill permanent improvement levy will be used in two ways. First, it will pay for up to $1.5 million in current costs that will be shifted from the General Fund to the Permanent Improvement Fund. These include technology expenditures, buses and costs related to facility and equipment maintenance. Based on potential reductions detailed below, remaining funds from the 1.5 mill permanent improvement levy will be used to cover the district’s most urgent capital improvement needs to maintain the function and safety of our facilities.
The FHSD Business Operations office has compiled a prioritized list of imminent capital projects that has been discussed at recent facilities committee meetings of the Board of Education. The various needs were identified and evaluated by the Director of Business Operations and administrators in maintenance and transportation, in coordination with professionals in relevant fields (architecture, asphalt, roofing, etc.) as needed. This list is subject to change over time, particularly if critical failures arise and require immediate attention, and the priority is based entirely on which projects have the most significant need to be addressed. You can view the current list here.
Why is FHSD planning reductions in coordination with a levy?
Forest Hills School District believes it is important to be financially responsible and manage taxpayer dollars well. For that reason, Superintendent Larry Hook and Treasurer Alana Cropper are planning an estimated $750,000 in reductions by the end of the 2022-2023 school year. These reductions helped lower the overall millage of the May combination levy and are an important part of the district's obligation to be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars.
The majority of those reductions will be made through attrition by analyzing the current pool of staff retirements and resignations and strategically adjusting next year’s staffing to meet educational standards with fewer people. These measures will ensure FHSD is operating in an efficient and productive manner while still maintaining the high-quality education that students, parents and this community have come to expect. You can read more about the specific reductions here.
The district is committed to tightening its belt in order to do what must be done to maintain its facilities and provide an excellent education to all students. Superintendent Hook provided a detailed overview of the district’s finances at the October 2022 board meeting where, based on quotes for various projects, he explained that the cost to address the most significant physical problems with district properties is expected to be $5-5.5 million. Passing this proposed levy would not provide enough funding to address all of the current needs, but it will allow FHSD to begin chipping away at the most critical projects and create a plan to meet additional needs over time.
Why do school districts rely on levies in the first place?
Ohio’s school funding model is designed in such a way that local taxpayers share the burden with the state to fund public education. Ohio law known as House Bill 920 also protects homeowners and residents from facing inflationary tax increases as property values increase. This means when property values increase, the effective tax rate in a district decreases because only the amount approved by voters can be collected. As a result, most school districts across the state ask voters for tax levies every few years in order to maintain normal operations.
This law forces voted property tax revenues for school districts to stay the same year over year. It does not account for inflation in any way and schools are one of the few governmental entities who do not receive inflationary tax increases in Ohio. State, county and municipal bodies primarily rely on either income tax or sales tax for operating revenues. Income tax revenue increases as wages increase. Sales tax revenue increases as inflation drives up the cost of goods and services. This reality makes it difficult for school districts across the state to simply keep up with day-to-day cost increases and is a key reason for their return to taxpayers for additional revenue every few years.
According to the five-year forecast, FHSD actually entered deficit spending this year and this will result in a negative cash balance by 2026 if the trend is not stabilized. The district cannot operate in deficit spending. This means FHSD would be required by law to implement significant budget reductions. While the Board of Education has not yet reviewed that potential budget, it is common for districts in this position to increase class sizes and student fees (both co-curricular and extracurricular) and decrease the district’s ability to offer certain extracurricular opportunities to students.
What happens if this levy passes?
If the levy passes, FHSD will be able to continue providing a high quality educational experience that is in line with the district’s commitment to excellence and to its students. Forest Hills has seen considerable success in recent years, including two top-ranking high schools in Ohio and all elementary schools earning the “Hall of Fame” status. The district has also demonstrated excellence in STEM, earned national recognition for music education and has been singled out for achievement in PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports). All of this has been accomplished with students, staff and community safety top of mind in FHSD’s partnerships with local law enforcement and emergency personnel. These accolades and accomplishments are only possible due to the generous support of community members and taxpayers. This levy is expected to provide stable funding for three years.
Take a look at FHSD’s 2022-2023 Quality Profile for more information about the district’s commitment to students and performance in the classroom.
Additionally, permanent improvement funds would allow the district to begin repairing major systems and maintaining the current facilities in the district to avoid more costly repairs in the future. Our school buildings belong to our community and their longevity and ability to serve our students for decades to come is impacted by our ability to address ongoing and routine maintenance and systems.
What happens if this levy fails?
If this levy does not pass, FHSD will need to consider immediate and significant budget reductions in order to avoid a projected negative cash balance. According to the five-year-forecast, the district is already operating in deficit spending and a negative cash balance is projected to occur by 2026 if the trend is not stabilized.
In order to delay that potential reality, Superintendent Hook has laid out plans for $1.8 million in cuts and cost reductions should the May levy fail. He presented this scenario to the Board of Education during March\'s regular meeting. You can read a detailed recap here.
If the levy does not pass, 15 certified staff positions will be eliminated across various grade levels impacting areas including special education, music, gifted and reading intervention, media literacy, digital citizenship and more. High school class sizes in math, social studies and world language will likely see increases.
Transportation reductions will force start times at all schools to change, with the high schools moving earlier by an estimated 25 minutes. The elementary schools will run on two different schedules (three buildings per time change), which will negatively impact collaboration between teachers and buildings.
A levy failure would also lead to a $125 increase in Pay-to-Participate fees for athletics and band. A new $125 Pay-to-Participate fee would be added for theater programs.
The impact of cutting $1.8 million before the start of the next school year would be significant. Additionally, it would not eliminate the need to increase funds and would not necessarily eliminate the need to ask voters for another levy down the line.