As a valued investor within the Indian Hill School District, I wanted to provide you with an important financial update. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a situation for districts of an uncertain financial future in terms of state funding, and it is important that you are aware of the facts.
COVID-19 Financial Impact
In March 2020, we learned of cuts to our already small share of state funding and we immediately tightened our belts. The District implemented the cuts and reductions we could without impacting student learning and we further deferred necessary maintenance on our facilities.
Since that time, Ohio restored some of the money that was lost, and the federal government has created opportunities to help offset some of the reductions public school districts like ours faced due to COVID-19. The CARES ACT and the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) were established to provide targeted financial assistance. These are one-time funds to meet pandemic-related needs – needs which we may not have otherwise met within our budget.
The one-time CARES funding is not a windfall of cash to our schools. It is dedicated and it comes with guidance on spending (for learning recovery and continuity of operations). This money in CARES and ESSER funding does not change the conversation on the $3.3 million per year for five years in operating funds that would be generated through the May 4,2021 ballot issue. We will develop a plan to carefully allocate these one-time funds specifically to meet the learning-recovery needs and continuity of operations.
The CARES funding dollars received over the last year does not help our District fund the necessary maintenance on our current facilities and continue to provide the same level of programs and services to our students without additional funding from our local community.
The financial situation we have navigated during the pandemic is an example that our District cannot control what happens in Columbus. We can control our local schools and the level to which we support them. Our local funding provides a steady, reliable stream of funding so that we can consistently fund the day-to-day operations of our schools.
May 4, 2021 Ballot Issue
We have stretched our current resources as far as they can go without beginning to affect the student experience our community expects from Indian Hill Schools. There's also a limit on how long we can defer maintenance before the solutions become more costly for our community to address in the long run; I believe we are at that crossroads now.
As we have communicated with you previously, Indian Hill has been actively, closely examining our need to bring revenues in line with expenses. We continue to anticipate near-flat revenue growth (near one percent per year). One percent per year is well below the rate of inflation mark. Inflationary costs affect us on the revenue side, as well as the expense side as things get more expensive over time but we do not see a corresponding increase to match on the revenue side.
Because of this situation with our operating funds, and because of the substantial issues within our facilities – both in terms of significant maintenance needs and necessary safety upgrades – our community-based committees who researched our needs during a 3-year process recommended our District move forward with a combined issue levy.
On May 4, 2021, our District will be on the ballot for a 5.43 mill combined operating/bond levy. The estimated cost of the May 4 ballot issue is approximately $190.05/year ($ 15.84/month) per $100,000 of property market value per the County Auditor’s website. The bond issue is a 30-year financial commitment to generate $77 million for our facilities – that total includes the replacement of Indian Hill Middle School and the replacement of the Indian Hill Elementary School sawtooth wing; security upgrades at every building; and necessary mechanical upgrades across the District. The operational levy will be a 5-year commitment, with an option to place a renewal on a future ballot. The last operational levy for the District was on the ballot in 1993; the Board did not renew this levy when it expired. The last facility project was in front of the voters in 2001.
We have managed our finances the way we always have, conservatively and with a focus on stretching each dollar to provide a high-quality education to our students at a great value to our residents.
The Indian Hill School District tax rate remains the lowest in Hamilton County. The District also did a great job managing the last bond issue and has structured the refinancing of bonds to achieve taxpayer savings of $8.5 million. That savings for residents comes in the form of reduced millage paid toward the bonds. In addition, a significant share of what residents pay on this bond expired at the end of 2018 – reducing the bond debt and providing our residents a savings of $304 annually on a $500,000 home. We will see an additional 1.4 mills of existing bonds expire in 2027, again lowering taxpayer payments.
We will continue to provide you timely financial updates. As always, I thank you for your continued support of the excellent educational services we provide within the Indian Hill School District. Should you have any questions about our District’s finances, please contact me.
Indian Hill Exempted Village School District
Posted Monday, April 5, 2021