Michael D. Clark reports
Lakota Schools’ board president told The Enquirer Thursday that residents will probably not see a tax hike on the fall ballot.
Ben Dibble, president of Lakota school board, described the prospects of new school tax hike appearing on the November ballot as “very unlikely”.
Dibble stressed that he was not speaking for the rest of the five-member board that governs Greater Cincinnati’s second largest school system, but that his assessment stems largely from their comments during a recent board work session.
“We haven’t put it completely to bed yet, but I don’t feel we are ready to go on this,” said Dibble.
Two main reasons are prompting officials at the academically top-rated district to step back from their previous consideration of the last ballot available in 2012.
The state biennium budget negotiations don’t begin until early 2013, he said. Given that legislative process’ unpredictability in recent years – often leaving Lakota with significantly less state funding – it would be prudent for school officials to first learn what funding is coming, he said, and then determine the level of local funding needed through a new local tax levy.
Moreover, pending academic core standards imposed by the state will entail more – but as of yet undetermined – costs for all of Ohio’s 613 public school systems.
Lakota is the seventh largest district in Ohio and the largest school system to earn the state’s highest academic rating of “excellent with distinction.”
Due to budget cuts in recent years totaling more than $25 million, thousands of Lakota students lost busing this school year and learned in more crowded classes.
The recent slicing of another $10.5 million from the upcoming school year, including 141 teaching, classroom aides and school staffer positions – and loss of some elective classes – will mean even more changes starting in August.
Lakota Treasurer Jenni Logan said the recent elimination of $10.5 million from the district’s estimated $154 million annual operating budget has reduced the district’s projected budget shortfall to about $700,000 in 2014.