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CPS wants 10-year tax levy renewal on November ballot

Ambriehl Crutchfield

The Cincinnati Public Schools Board of Education says it's necessary to move a tax levy from a five-year cycle to a 10-year cycle during the upcoming election in November.

A resolution was approved by the board during a meeting Monday. The $51.5 million "emergency fixed sum levy" was first enacted in 2008. It will be the third renewal for the levy if voters approve it in November.

Treasurer and CFO Jennifer Wagner says if the levy were to stay on the five-year course, then voters would have to deal with voting on three separate levies in a four-year period (2025, 2027, and 2028).

"That's what we're trying to get away from is that levy fatigue on the taxpayers, the voters, as well as the district," Wagner said. "But if you stretch it out to 10 years, then you'll have three levies over a seven-year period and it's much more palpable, it's easier to plan long-term, and it gives us a little more financial stability."

Wagner also says the tax levy cannot be replaced by ESSER funds. Those funds specifically must go toward covering costs related to COVID-19, including but not limited to remote learning, preventing learning loss, PPE, etc. ESSER funds run out in 2024.

If the levy doesn't pass, Wagner says the district would have to cut roughly $25 million from the budget each year. She gave a hypothetical situation to what that would look like.

Here's a look at the five-year forecast presented by CPS if the tax levy doesn't pass.
Cincinnati Public Schools
Here's a look at the five-year forecast presented by CPS if the tax levy doesn't pass.

"We have nine small elementary schools that total $25 million, or we have two high schools that would equal $25 million, or we could reduce staff, teachers and administration; 260 of them would make up $25 million," Wagner said. "Then in the second year, we would have to go $25 million more."

The tax levy was first approved in 2008 when the district had seen enrollment dropping for a decade, according to WCPO. After years of growth, CPS saw a nearly 4% dip in enrollment between October 2019 and March 2021. Nearly 5,000 students withdrew from the district during the 2020-21 school year. In 2019, it was reported that CPS saw an enrollment increase of over 4,462 students since 2013.

You can look at what was presented during the discussion by clicking here.

Transportation discussions continue

Cincinnati Public Schools continues to discuss transportation options for yellow buses and Metro buses a little more than a month before the district's contract runs out for Metro services.

CPS's board supports a roughly $30.2 million yellow bus plan for grades K-8 and students with disabilities for kids grades Pre-k-12. Roughly 298 buses would be needed for the plan.

Superintendent Iranetta Wright recommends the plan because it would change the start time for students to 8:45 a.m. She says staff have 30 minutes before and after school to supervise students.

"When we look at changing the day by 30 minutes, that means that they are reporting 30 minutes earlier, so for a school that starts now at 9:15, the school day would now start at 8:45, so they would have to be at school at least at 8:30," Wright said. "If we change that start time to 8:30, that then backs up the start time for them."

The board is also tabling options from the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) before the current contract with the district runs out Jun. 30. Look below for the yellow bus and Metro bus plans discussed during Monday's board meeting.

Metro says CPS solicited bids from other transportation service providers, and federal law prohibits SORTA from competing with private charter operators. SORTA ended student Metro bus routes right as school was about to begin for the 2021-22 school year. SORTA says due to a driver shortage at the time, the decision was necessary to avoid delaying or reducing services.

CPS says the changes affect 6,000 students. However, SORTA says roughly 4,000 were already commuting to school using regular Metro routes.

Cory Sharber attended Murray State University majoring in journalism and political science and comes to Cincinnati Public Radio from NPR Member station WKMS.