The Indian Hill Board of Education took the second and final vote to confirm the District will place a combined operating and bond issue on the November 3, 2020 ballot during the June 23 regularly scheduled Board meeting. If passed, the ballot issue will provide dollars for daily operations and a bond issue to meet critical District needs.
“We are moving forward as a result of critical need,” said Indian Hill Board of Education President Nancy Aichholz. “We have engaged in a very public process that has taken place for nearly two years analyzing our facility and operational needs; we must take action to protect the excellent educational services our community expects and deserves.”
The combined operating and bond issue is estimated at 5.68 mills. The estimated cost of the November 3 ballot issue is approximately $198.80/year ($ 16.57/month) per $100,000 of property market value per the County Auditor’s website.
“We are also taking into consideration the financial impact of COVID-19. The pandemic has created a situation for districts of an uncertain financial future in terms of state funding. Immediately following COVID-19, we saw a significant and immediate shortfall in the State’s revenue which was passed to the budget items, such as school funding; the loss – at that time – to the Indian Hill School District totaled $621,000 for the District in fiscal year 2020,” said Indian Hill School District Treasurer Mick Davis. “Then, Friday, June 19, a new bill was signed into law providing some relief to districts; at the Indian Hill School District we have recovered $418,000 of what we thought we had lost. Early news regarding fiscal year 2021- which begins in July - is that districts should anticipate a reduction in state funding.”
State Funding Loss, Conservation of Cash, and Cost-Saving Measure
The District acted swiftly to manage the initial news of the $621,000 state funding loss. The District’s Capital Plan, a tool to analyze capital needs and to plan future projects, was examined and the District removed all budget line items except for technology and transportation purchases. This freed much needed cash to help sustain dwindling balances; although all carpeting, furniture purchases, and other general maintenance will be delayed, which could potentially exacerbate current facility needs. Additionally, the Board of Education voted in May 2020 to restructure custodial operations through outsourcing services. The District will save approximately $325,000 annually as a result.
“We must take action now to ensure the enduring excellence of our educational programs,” said Indian Hill Superintendent Kirk Koennecke. “Every community must decide what they want to be; at Indian Hill we are nationally recognized for our award-winning academics, arts, and athletics. We believe our community values these world-class educational services and will protect that which is so uniquely Indian Hill.”
Davis said the District will see a total reduction of expenses from November 2019 estimates of approximately $1.1 million during the 2020-2021 school year as a result of the cost-saving/cash conserving actions; he said the decisions were difficult but necessary to protect the District’s educational services.
November 3 Bond/Operating Issue
Over the years, the District has had to divert funds from the daily operating budget to provide for building maintenance, upkeep, and upgrades needed throughout the District’s campus. A bond would provide the District with a source of revenue specific to the capital needs, and operating dollars will focus on continuing to maintain our nationally recognized academic, art, and athletic programs.
The importance of the bond issue is to help protect the investment in the District’s current facilities; make security upgrades at buildings across the District; replace and maintain mechanical systems; and replace Indian Hill Middle School.
The District did an excellent job managing the last bond issue – structuring the refinancing of bonds to achieve taxpayer savings of $8.5 million. That savings comes in the form of reduced millage paid towards the bonds. In 2019, a significant share of what residents pay on this bond expired – reducing the bond debt by 1.74 mills. That means an annual reduction of $304 on a $500,000 home, and an annual saving of $609 on a $1 million home. Additionally, residents will see another reduction of 1.4 mills in 2027.
The last operating levy was more than 25 years ago. The District continues to operate from levies passed in the 1980s and earlier with a near-zero inflationary increase.
“The Indian Hill School District is an excellent value at 23.99 mills; our District’s tax rate is the lowest in Hamilton County out of all 23 districts,” said Davis. “Even with the passage of the November 3 levy, the District would remain among the lowest.”
If the levy passes, then the District can meet the operational and capital needs. If the levy fails in November, deferred maintenance will not be enough to balance the budget. The District would need to enact an estimated $1.5 million in districtwide cuts and reductions.