J.F. Dulles Elementary School News

Your Issue #1 questions answered

Posted on: July 19, 2018
hands raised

A letter from the desk of superintendent Jeff Brandt:

As you are aware, our district placed an operating levy on the ballot for August 7, 2018. As we draw closer to the election date, you may be hearing about or reading social media posts that may not provide accurate information. I want to take this opportunity to ensure that you have factual information to assist you in making an informed and educated decision on the August 7 vote.

As a result of the Citizens Committee for Oak Hills Local Schools campaign efforts, including, weekly door-to-door visits, community newsletters, the June tele-town hall meeting, radio interviews and social media posts, I have received emails and calls with follow-up questions. Many of you may have similar questions. I’m here to provide you with accurate information prior to the August 7 vote.

Yes, this is a 4.9 mill operating levy. There are safety, security and mental health components, as well as dollars allocated to operating costs of the district. The Oak Hills Local School District is one of the largest employers in both Delhi and Green Townships. We employ over 900 certified and classified staff members, which accounts for approximately 85% of our overall budget. This includes salaries and benefits. Remaining operating funds pay for building utilities, transportation, instructional supplies and equipment and fixed costs associated with operating 10 district buildings. We consistently evaluate our operating needs and costs to preserve our standard of Excellence to which the Oak Hills community has become accustomed. We are proud stewards of taxpayer dollars and our history of earning Auditor of State awards reflect the excellent accounting and record-keeping audits performed by our district.

I encourage you to visit the treasurer's page of our website at ohlsd.us to find detailed information related to our district revenue sources and expenditures. You will also find our 5-year forecast (also posted under the notes section on our Facebook page) which may help answer some of the funding questions you may have. State funding accounts for approximately 40% of our budget, but those funds have been relatively flatlined.  Local property tax funding represents the other large revenue source in our budget, over 55%. As a result of property values declining nine out of the last 10 years across our entire district, and very little new residential home development, property revenue collection has been relatively stagnant since our last levy in 2013.

We are projected to be spending more than we are receiving in 12-18 months, which is referred to as deficit spending.  To clarify, the district is not currently in a deficit or in debt (per State law, no public school district can end a school year with a negative operating balance or debt). Therefore, monies generated from the August levy, if passed, will not be paying off any deficit. As mentioned, based on the current forecast, we are projected to be deficit spending in the 12-18 months, which means we are depleting our savings account.  

Based on our projected financial forecast and potential to begin deficit spending in the near future, along with the current safety vulnerabilities of our buildings, the decision was made that now was the time to bring the vote to our taxpayers. It’s an important vote for both the critical building safety enhancements and district operating dollars to maintain our fiscal health.

If Issue 1 passes, we will begin implementing some of the safety items immediately, such as hiring an additional school police resource police officer at the high school and two additional officers so that all three middle schools have a full-time, trained armed police presence. We will be adding armed security personnel and three mental health specialists as quickly as we can get them hired. In addition, there is a need to upgrade many of our entrance doors and entryways, which will eliminate the ability to have immediate access to all of our building hallways and classrooms. That work may have to take place after hours, but we hope to get started immediately once we know the outcome of the levy. Along with our current procedures, we will continue to evaluate and enhance our district and building safety procedures.

Due to the filing deadlines with the Board of Elections, we cannot place an issue on the November 2018 ballot should Issue 1 not pass in August.

The question of what portion of the funds from the levy will benefit school safety/security and how much will go toward operating dollars has been asked. Roughly 30-35% of revenue generated from the levy will benefit school safety, security, mental health, building entryways and upgrades to classroom doors. Moving forward, funds will also be allocated for additional safety enhancements, such as an increase in building security camera systems, upgraded technology to screen visitors,  safety/security personnel salaries and training and door sensors on building entrance/exit doors. Remaining funds will be prioritized for the operating needs of the district. Also, funds will continue to be directed at ongoing safety needs and recommendations in future years.

Why did we decide to go on the ballot for a special election in August instead of waiting until November and how much did it is cost us to be on the ballot? It’s important to note that we did not request a special election to be placed on the ballot. Per the Secretary of State, there are several options to be placed on the ballot, including March, May, August and November. The estimated cost from the Hamilton County Board of Elections for our August issue is under $100,000; which translates to less than 0.1% of our budget. As a result of the comprehensive safety/security audit performed by Bart West, former Green Township police chief, recommendations were presented at the May Board of Education meeting. Our goal is to implement as many of the recommendations as close to the beginning of the school year as possible. We did not want to prolong implementing these important recommendations and jeopardize the safety or our students and staff.

As the superintendent, I, along with the entire Oak Hills staff accept the responsibility to not only educate all students but to provide a safe and orderly learning environment. As a lifelong Oak Hills resident and father with children in the district, I will not sacrifice the safety of our students or staff. Therefore, a proactive approach is necessary to provide all of our students and families the comfort of knowing they are safe while at school.

The combination of our comprehensive safety audit and need for operating funds in the near future put us in a position to be placed on the August ballot. We didn't want to come back to our taxpayers again in such a short timeframe, so we evaluated our needs and combined them into one ask. Should the levy pass, we feel confident that all recommendations from the audit will be implemented and the fiscal health of our district will be maintained for a minimum of five years.

The November 2013 levy was a five-year term levy, meaning we had to place the May 2017 levy on the ballot to maintain those funds. It was a substitute levy that did not raise taxes, nor raise additional revenue for the district. In 2013, we committed to five years before we would request additional financial support from taxpayers. I’m proud to say we delivered on that commitment.

Some of you have asked why your polling location has been changed for the August election. Please know this is something out of our control and we did not request these changes. Per the Board of Elections four polling locations have been temporarily changed for the August election. For more information please contact the Board of Elections directly. The changes include:

  • Cincinnati 19-C (part) is moved with Delhi B-M-S at St. Dominic Parish Church.  Cincinnati 19-C is a split precinct (i.e. consists of voters who live in the Cinti School District and voters who live in the Oak Hills School District).  Only 6 registered voters are in the Oak Hills School District. Their usual polling place in the City of Cincinnati will not be open for the August Election so they are being reassigned to St. Dominic.
  • Delhi E & Q moved with Delhi G & L to St. Luke’s Community Church.  Delhi E & Q is normally housed at St. Simon, which was not available for the August Election due to Bible School.
  • Green G with Green QQ at John Foster Dulles Elementary School.  Green G is normally housed at Visitation, which was not available for the August Election due to construction.
  • Green MM with Green E & Q at Oak Hills Presbyterian Church.  Green MM is also normally housed at Visitation.

The only permanent change is to Diamond Oaks School.  The entrance to the polling location was changed to be more accessible to voters but the location did not change. According to the BOE, postcards were mailed to all affected registered voters. Signs will also be displayed at the former locations on election day, directing voters to the new temporary location. Voters can also find their polling location on the Board of Elections website by clicking the ‘Where Do I Vote’ button or clicking the ‘August Election’ page for a full list of polling locations.  

On behalf of the Oak Hills Board of Education, administrative team and staff, we appreciate your continued support. Your questions, calls and emails solidify your commitment to assisting in the education of our students. We truly appreciate your willingness to be informed and gather the facts related to the August 7 levy in order to make an educated and informed decision.