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FHSD Board Approves 6.9 Mill Levy for May Ballot

January 18, 2023

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. Based on the district’s current five-year forecast, operational costs have already surpassed funding and FHSD is in a period of deficit spending. This financial situation is due to a significant increase in expenses due to inflation, the state of Ohio’s unconstitutional funding model and other factors.

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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 Cost Per Month
$100,000 $20.13
$200,000 $40.26
$300,000 $60.39

FHSD administrators calculated the 6.9 mill amount based on the cost for FHSD to maintain current educational programming. With operational costs rising sharply due to inflation and other factors, this amount would allow FHSD to keep similar staffing levels and offer all of the valuable educational programs that are currently available.

“Forest Hills School District provides a high-quality education and offers unmatched experiences for students, both in and out of the classroom,” Superintendent Larry Hook said. “Every decision and all the work we do as educators is focused on how we can maintain that high-quality education while making smart financial decisions.”

Forest Hills School District believes it is important to be as financially responsible as possible as a steward of taxpayer dollars. For that reason, Superintendent Larry Hook and Treasurer Alana Cropper are looking to make between $750,000 and $1 million in reductions by the end of the 2022-2023 school year. 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.

“Our district, like many in the state of Ohio and across the country, is dealing with significant financial challenges related to inflation,” Treasurer Alana Cropper said. “Even in this environment, we continue to operate across all departments in a fiscally responsible manner, stretching each dollar to maximize our impact on learning and student growth. It is our duty to residents and taxpayers to follow sound financial practices and constantly look for ways to do business more efficiently.”

The goal of these reductions is to, in the event the community passes this levy, make some funding available to start addressing significant capital needs. 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.

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.

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. 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 students fees (both co-curricular and extracurricular) and decrease the district’s ability to offer certain extracurricular opportunities to students.

This article was updated on March 6, 2023 to provide additional information related to the calculation to determine the levy cost per household. The following sentence was added to clarify questions received by the district: "The levy cost is based on the market value of a home, as assessed by the Hamilton County Auditor."