The current school board has stated on multiple occasions that financial problems have been inherited from the previous school board. Alana Cropper is the District Treasurer and has worked under many boards, including the present one. She has done a great job attempting to educate this school board about the district financials. Alana has even presented multiple options for an operating levy in either 2022 or 2023 to avoid large cuts and last resorts like consolidation. Her explanation can be found in a video from the April 6, 2022 Work Session. We would now like to present the 2021 Financial Report to you for your consideration:
HOW DOES OUR SPENDING COMPARE?
Spending per pupil is a financial benchmark calculated by the Ohio Department of Education for all school districts in the state. As you can see, FHSD ranks 12 out of 23 districts in Hamilton County and spending per pupil is below average in the county. Moreover, FHSD spends 73.7% of our dollars in the classroom whereas the average school district in the state spends only 68.4%.
WHAT WAS THE IMPACT OF COVID-19?
We sprang into action as soon we learned in March 2020 of the Governor’s school shutdown. FHSD tightened our financial belts and began working through how we would continue to deliver services to our students uninterrupted.
As the district continued to adjust and adapt our educational response and plan for reopening our buildings safely, we navigated through constant financial changes. We operate on a tight budget because we value each dollar our community invests in our schools. In the Spring of 2020, we learned the unexpected news of $3.3 million in immediate cuts to our state funding. Later, a small portion of the funding ($908,000) was restored to the district.
The federal, one-time emergency CRF and ESSER funds enabled our schools to reopen safely and covered additional costs that were not part of our original budget. These funds have been instrumental in keeping our buildings open safely this year.
We designated the use of these funds to benefit all students in a variety of ways; FHSD: provided face to face instruction with increased sanitation, developed new teacher support and additional staffing positions to deliver instruction in virtual settings with smaller class sizes; and equipped students and teachers with the equipment and technology that allowed for flexible instruction.
Overall, we were proud that we were able to keep our buildings open to students in the 2020-21 school year despite all of the uncertainty and changes. Our strong financial practices in place prior to COVID-19 and maintained through our response allow our district leaders to focus their decision-making on what students need to be successful today and into their futures.
HOW DOES STATE FUNDING AFFECT OUR BUDGET?
State funding is an important piece of every school budget. Ohio has a complicated and, frankly, unconstitutional formula for funding schools. In fact, this system has been ruled unconstitutional on several occasions since 1997 because the way Ohio funds schools creates an over-reliance on local taxes.
Currently, the legislature is considering a different way to fund schools, but the new formula still takes into account a “wealth index” or the perceived ability of a community to fund its own schools. Even under this new formula that seeks to decrease reliance on local taxes, FHSD will see minimal increases in state funding. Some calculations show the district could see funding for two, maybe three, additional teachers if this plan passes. It’s a drop in the bucket.
This tells communities like ours that the quality of our local schools is up to our local taxpayers and voters. We continue to advocate for more funding at the state level, but it remains clear—Forest Hills cannot rely on Columbus to support or fund what our community expects locally.
ARE WE GETTING A GOOD RETURN ON OUR INVESTMENT?
Forest Hills School District is one of the highest performing schools in Hamilton County and at the same time is below the average residential tax in the area! This is one way our district provides a good return on the investment residents make in the Forest Hills School District and the community. We take pride in our ability to deliver high quality instruction to our residents.
THE VALUE OF THE FOREST HILLS EXPERIENCE
We are proud FHSD continues to be a high-performing district! Once again, Turpin High School and Anderson High School are among the top ranked schools not only in Ohio, but also the nation! In fact, the 2021 U.S. News and World Report “Top High Schools'' report ranks Anderson and Turpin in the top 4.4% of high schools in the state and in the top 6.5% in the nation. Ranking is based upon reading and math assessments, graduation rates, and college readiness.
Our district consistently receives the coveted Auditor of State award, most recently for our fiscal year ending in 2020. The award from Keith Faber, Auditor of State says, “The citizens you represent are well-served by your effective and accountable financial practices.”
Forest Hills School District also continues to maintain high ranking Niche scores, based on community and staff reviews, throughout all nine buildings. The district ranks in the top 11% for best places to teach in Ohio, has A+ ratings for academics and college readiness, ranks in the top 8% of best districts for student-athletes, and the top 6% of best overall school districts statewide.
Additionally, 83% of students in Forest Hills schools are proficient or above in math and in reading, according to state test scores. We know this is because of our dedicated staff and our shared vision for student success.
We will continue to honor the tradition of excellence at Forest Hills School District, celebrate the accomplishments of our staff and students and provide the high-quality experiences our community expects at a great value.
Our schools belong to our community and Forest Hills School District is committed to open communication with our community. If you have any questions about the details in this report, please send them to us at email@example.com.
Welcome to AdvocateFHSD! We’re so happy to have you here. Strong public schools = strong communities. Here, we strive to engage and inform the FHSD community, and empower residents to be the best advocates for our students, teachers, administrators, and district.