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Mt. Healthy Schools plans to make changes and pursue a levy amid its fiscal emergency

Mt. Healthy Junior/Senior High School
Zack Carreon
Mt. Healthy Junior/Senior High School

The Mt. Healthy School Board is moving forward with a plan to put a levy on the ballot this November to help chip away its budget deficit, which was recently projected to reach $90 million by the 2028 fiscal year.

The ongoing levy would generate around $1.5 million annually for the Mt. Healthy schools. The Board approved the levy for the ballot after district leaders proposed a larger levy that would bring in $3 million a year.

The Board decided against the $3 million levy after expressing doubts that voters within the high-poverty district would support it, considering current economic conditions and Mt. Healthy's recent financial blunders. But Superintendent Valerie Hawkins says the money will be needed for the district to stay afloat as it weathers its financial crisis.

"You can choose not to do a levy, however, we do have an amount of money we're still trying to cut and this would be revenue coming in," Hawkins told the Board.

RELATED: Mt. Healthy Schools will make significant staff cuts at the end of this school year

In March, the district announced it would cut 80 positions before the start of the next school year after Treasurer Kimberly Hughes discovered the massive deficit and requested the state put the school system in a state of fiscal emergency.

According to a state audit released last month, between 2020 and 2023 Mt. Healthy Schools used federal pandemic relief funding to hire dozens of new teachers and pay for several construction projects, without a plan to cover the long-term costs of those additions.

Hughes replaced Mt. Healthy's previous treasurer, Rebecca Brooks, before the 2023-2024 school year. Hughes uncovered the district's budget deficit after using financial forecasting software that the state auditor says Brooks didn't utilize, leading to the inaccurate forecasts. Board members say school leaders believed the district was financially sound when they approved the new hires and construction.

As Mt. Healthy works to dig itself out of a financial hole, it will do it without Treasurer Hughes and Assistant Treasurer Tya Grengbondai, whose resignations were announced during Monday's meeting.

Instead, the district will rely on an outside company to do the work of the treasurer until a new one is hired.

Hughes did not attend the night's meeting due to a personal emergency. After just over a year in her position, she is not expected to appear at any more meetings.

RELATED: CPS Board approves reductions to assistant principal and manager positions

In addition to several layoffs approved by the Board on Monday, Mt. Healthy will also add athletic fees for next school year. High school students will have to pay $150 to participate in a sport along with an extra $75 if they choose to play a second sport. Middle school students will need to pay $100 to participate in as many sports as they want.

The state auditor's Financial Planning and Supervision Commission has to give a stamp of approval for both the sports fees and the levy on the November ballot, because the state is in control of all financial decisions at Mt. Healthy until the fiscal emergency designation is removed.

The auditor's commission will meet to discuss these topics June 17.

Zack Carreon is Education reporter for WVXU, covering local school districts and higher education in the Tri-State area.