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Indian Hill Board of Education sets vision for future of District

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In a unanimous vote, the Indian Hill Board of Education took the first steps toward placing a combined operating and bond issue on the May 4, 2021 ballot during a special Board meeting Tuesday, December 22, 2020. The ballot issue will provide dollars for daily operations and a bond issue to meet critical District needs. 

The combined operating and bond issue is estimated at approximately 5.43 mills. 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.

“We have listened to our stakeholders the past two years during a very public process, and we are confident that the time to act is now,” said Indian Hill Board of Education President Nancy Aichholz. “As a District, we face significant operational and capital needs that this combined issue will fund, therefore continuing to provide a consistently excellent academic environment for future generations of our students.”

Building a Brave Future
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. 

Last school year, a dedicated team of Indian Hill School District residents who comprised the community-based Finance Steering Committee and the Facilities Steering Committee delivered comprehensive recommendations for the Board of Education to consider. These reports were the culmination of research into our operations and facilities needs that first began in 2018. 

And the work to Build a Brave Future did not stop. 

Members from each of those committees formed a Facilities Vision Task Force. The task force was divided into three main teams working on: plans for a complete rebuild of Indian Hill Middle School and enhancements to Indian Hill High School; plans for enhancements to Indian Hill Elementary School and Indian Hill Primary School; and, plans for what the transition would look like for students and staff during a proposed construction timeline. 

Guided by outside consultants, and in conjunction with District administrators and staff, those volunteers developed a draft plan working within the framework first defined by the recommendations of the Finance Steering Committee and Facilities Steering Committee. 

The task force presented this plan to the Board of Education during the December 8, 2020 meeting, and while not final, this vision will help to guide the facilities process in the future.   

“We appreciate the work of these committees, and we value the time and energy each member has invested for the future of our District,” said Aichholz. “This is a well-researched base plan for our future facilities, and will serve as the model from which we will work. Our needs are very real, and we must secure our future May 4.”

“Even with the passage of the May 4 levy, the District would remain among the lowest tax rates within Hamilton County,” said Indian Hill School District Treasurer Mick Davis. “Currently at 23.99 mills, our District’s tax rate is the lowest in Hamilton County out of all 23 districts. We are and will continue to be an excellent value.

“For many years our District has had to provide for building maintenance, upkeep, and upgrades by diverting funds from the daily operating budget. We have the opportunity to permanently fix this through a bond which would provide the District with a source of revenue specific to the capital needs. This will allow the District to focus our operating dollars on continuing to maintain our nationally recognized academic, art, and athletic programs.”

History of fiscal responsibility
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. 

If the levy passes, then the District can meet the operational and capital needs. The need to secure additional operating dollars and funding for capital projects does not go away with failure. Rather, the need is delayed and it worsens. If the levy fails in May, the District would need to consider district-wide cuts and reductions.

“Protecting and maintaining our world-class programs is our priority,” said Indian Hill Superintendent Kirk Koennecke. “The Indian Hill School District is ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 7 in the country according to Niche; we are ranked No. 5 in the state by U.S. News and World Report. We have received the Best Communities for Music Education the past six consecutive years. This is what we are working to maintain – an educational experience that is a model of excellence that endures.” 

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