By Kristin Rover
After several months of changes at cutbacks, West Clermont Local School District will again ask voters to pass an operational tax levy for the district this November.
This year, the millage is lower, and according to district officials they have worked to do everything they can to make the district more efficient.
“I think West Clermont is at a turning point,” Superintendent Dr. Keith Kline said. “We, as a community, can decide what education we want for our young people. We need community support.”
Kline said since he has become superintendent, he has been working hard to make changes at the district.
“I think a lot of things have changed in the last six months as far as how the district operates,” Kline said. “We’ve put in place numerous new initiatives to get West Clermont back on track, now we need the community to help that happen.”
Kline said board members analyzed several different options for a levy and also discussed what would be returned to the district with each option.
He said they also received feedback from community members through surveys, listening sessions, and more.
“We really wanted to hear back from our community members as the board considered what millage to place on the ballot,” Kline said.
He said the board decided on 5.8 mills, which is lower than previous levies they have placed on the ballot.
“It has been 7.9 the last two years,” Kline said. “The board was able to reduce the levy amount to 5.8 for five years.”
Kline said the changes they have made at the district as well as receiving more funds than last year from the state enabled them to lower the levy amount.
Kline said the 5.8 mills would allow the district to do several things.
He said it will maintain current programming, modernize course work, open the elementary schools for community use in the evening, return transportation outside of a one mile exclusion zone, add back art, music, P.E., and library services at the elementary school, and put into place all day, every day kindergarten.
Denise Smith, a member of the board, said she really took the feedback from the community to heart when it came to deciding on the millage amount for the ballot.
She said community members expressed the importance of bringing back the arts, transportation, and making changes to pay to play.
“I feel the levy reflected the feedback we got,” Smith said. “The three options we looked at were 6.3, 5.8, and 4.8, the difference being the transportation piece.”
Smith said the 6.3 mills restored transportation back to normal, the 5.8 mills restored it up to a one-mile radius, and the 4.8 mills kept the transportation at state minimum.
“We all voted on it, we discussed it,” Smith said.
Smith said while she would love to see transportation completely restored, she feels the 5.8 mill levy will still put the district in much better shape.
“Our children in the community deserve the education they need to be successful,” Smith said. “We’ve cut and we’re bare bones, but the bottom line is this is what the kids need, they need a good education to be productive adults.”
Board member Tammy Brinkman said community members need to look at where districts like Little Miami have gone.
“We’ve seen how the lack of support tore down their community,” Brinkman said. “The state came in and did not cut additional services, and then ran levies upwards of 14 mills.”
Brinkman said district officials have done everything they can to make the district more efficient.
“Dr. Kline has done an excellent job finding inefficiencies and re-arranging work,” Brinkman said.
She said they have listened to the community about what are the most important services to bring back, including the arts as well as kindergarten.
“There is no reason to not support this levy,” Brinkman said. “The feeling of mistrust, misspending, you shouldn’t have that.”
Brinkman said she encourages members of the community to be informed decision makers and take time to look at all of the facts.
“I would like to see them reaching out to get the facts,” Brinkman said. “I think it is important they listen to their neighbors, friends and family, but make sure the source of information is accurate. I feel if people look into it, they will be supportive.”
For more information about the district or the levy, visit www.westcler.org. or call (513) 943-5000.