By Elliot Grossman

Leaders of the Loveland City School District listened, and that’s a major reason why I’m urging people to vote in favor of the school tax levy.

In 2019, the district asked voters to approve a huge increase in real estate taxes, about 42 percent. And by a huge margin, Loveland voters rejected that request, sending a loud message to district leaders that the levy was excessive. 

At the next election, in April 2020, the district asked voters to approve a smaller levy, about 20 percent. But with the community still stinging from the earlier levy, it was too soon to go to the voters again. That levy failed too.

Now, the district is trying again. And this time, with new leadership, the district is offering a better option. They’re asking voters to approve the smallest of the three levy requests, about 12 percent or $600 more per year for the average homeowner. 

The district hopes the community has healed enough to pass a levy on the third try. But community disagreement persists, including with a deluge of social media posts that aren’t always based on facts or relevant. To me, much of it is distracting noise being generated by people on both sides — irrelevant noise that won’t help people decide how to vote.

I’ve been following what’s happening in the Loveland district. And I’ve studied other Greater Cincinnati districts. I’m confident in the position I’m taking. Here’s why I’m voting “yes”:

  • The district has worked hard to manage money as efficiently as it can. Since the two levy losses, it eliminated high school busing and cut 48 full-time jobs. “Our teachers and other staff are working very, very hard,” Superintendent Mike Broadwater says. “We’re very thin.” 
  • If the 4.9-mill operating levy passes, the district could add back five of those jobs. It also would be able to maintain other programming. But if the levy fails, the district would need to eliminate the jobs of as many as 50 educators, meaning the staff would have been cut by at least 20 percent in three years, Broadwater says. That would surely mean larger classes and fewer course offerings — a scenario I find alarming.
  • Last year, the district negotiated union contracts that minimized the need for more tax revenue. Employees are not getting cost-of-living increases. The district imposed the same conditions on administrators.
  • If the levy passes, the district could restore high school busing, assuming it could recruit more bus drivers. For many parents, driving their children to high school is an inconvenience. But for some, it’s a hardship. It infringes on their work schedules, jeopardizing their family’s income.
  • The district’s leadership has changed dramatically. Since the last levy failed, three new board members have joined the board, creating a new majority. The district’s top two professionals — the superintendent and treasurer — have only been in their jobs for 15 months. That means most of those who decided to put the two failed levies on the ballot are gone.
  • It is unreasonable to ask the district to never seek a tax increase. But it is reasonable to ask for moderate tax increases from time to time, which the district is doing this time. The district last passed a levy in 2014.
  • No business, government or nonprofit organization is perfect. So, it’s unreasonable to expect a school district to be perfect or to please everyone. Likewise, it’s unfair for people to vote against the levy just because they might not agree on everything the district is doing.
  • The district ranks among the top 2 percent of Ohio’s school districts in the latest Ohio School Report Card. The five metrics in the Report Card don’t give the whole story, but they do provide a good sense about how our students are doing academically. According to the Ohio Department of Education, Loveland students are excelling, even though the district spends less per student on average than other Ohio districts. 

I attended public schools from kindergarten to 12th grade. High-quality public schools are essential for a community and nation to flourish. They are great equalizers, helping children from all walks of life to succeed. I’m thankful that strong public schools served as the foundation for my education, making it possible for me and my brother to be the first generation in our family to earn four-year college degrees. I’m glad my daughter has had the same opportunity to attend first-rate schools. And with passage of the levy, I expect that our schools will continue to be superb.

Elliot Grossman, who ran for Loveland School Board last year, lives in Miami Township. He is president of Ashire Communications, a marketing and public relations firm.

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