Monday, April 22, 2002

Forest Hills has tax forums




By Cindy Kranz ckranz@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        ANDERSON TOWNSHIP — Forest Hills School District will play host to two community meetings this week to discuss a tax increase on the November ballot.

        Meetings will be held at 7 p.m. today and 9 a.m. Saturday, both in the district's administration building, 7550 Forest Road, Anderson Township.

        Today's meeting will provide an overview of the 4.9-mill levy. The second meeting will focus on the district's financial picture.

        Forest Hills, facing a $2 million deficit next school year, joins a growing list of school districts seeking tax increases, most of them citing inadequate state funding. Other Hamilton County districts seeking levies or renewals this year include Wyoming, Mariemont, Norwood and Mount Healthy.

        A 4.9-mill tax increase would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $150 more per year. If approved, the levy would carry the district through the 2006-07 school year.

        The district's last operating levy passed in 1994. This is the first year in the last eight that the district has not balanced its budget.

        Many factors contribute to the district's financial forecast, said Treasurer Ronald J. Yeager, but declining enrollment and a low level of state funding have had the greatest negative effect on Forest Hills.

        Enrollment in the district has decreased from 8,156 in the 1995-96 school year to 7,660 in the 2001-02 school year. The district could lose more than 620 students over the next five years, which would result in a loss of $3.2 million over the five-year period.

        Migration of students to private schools after finishing kindergarten is a major factor in the enrollment decline. About 10 percent of students leave the district after their kindergarten year. Many of those students enroll in Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic School, which does not offer kindergarten.

        Forest Hills Superintendent John Patzwald said the district has been a good steward of taxpayer dollars and is constantly assessing its financial situation and working on reallocating priorities.

        “It's obvious if we are to continue our successful direction, a levy is necessary,” Mr. Patzwald said. The tax increase, he added, would allow the district to maintain its current level of services, and possibly expand some services, such as intervention programs.

       



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