ANDERSON TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Residents in the Forest Hills School District are less than two weeks away from voting for or against a school tax levy. On Wednesday night, dozens of people spoke at the board of education meeting about the May 2 vote.
The meeting had 24 different speakers with the majority in favor of the levy, which would raise homeowners' property taxes. Hours before the meeting, dozens of parents and some students stood at the corner of Clough Pike and Royal Green Drive, urging drivers to vote yes for the levy.
"If the levy doesn't pass, this is what we lose. It's the great programming that we have at Forest Hills for our kids," said Forest Hills parent Mana Hale, who will be voting yes.
The Forest Hills Board of Education unanimously approved a 6.9-mill levy, which includes a 5.4-mill operating levy and a 1.5-mill permanent improvement levy, in January to deal with rising costs, inflation and revenue simply not keeping up. If the voters approve the levy, homeowners' property taxes would go up an additional $20.13 per month for a home valued at $100,000.
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"I appear to be the lone voice of opposition," said Kevin Misiak, who is voting against the levy.
Misiak spoke about teachers' salaries being higher than multiple districts in the Tri-State, and seemed skeptical about how the district was going to use the money. He implied the district would use it on raising staff salaries.
"Where is the money going? Is it going to the children? No. Are the teachers going to sacrifice? No," said Misiak.
Superintendent Larry Hook said the money will be used for "permanent improvements" like maintaining and repairing buildings and staying up to date with school technology.
"It's not spent on salaries, and it's not spent on operations, it's spent on the investment that this community has made in nine school buildings and three district buildings," said Hook.
While Hook tried to clear up any misinformation about the May 2 vote, some teachers and parents spoke about the worst-case scenario.
"If the levy does not pass three of the six media center specialists in Forest Hills will lose their jobs," said Peter Francus, media center specialist for the district.
"Reading intervention services these students received this year will be strongly impacted in a failed levy scenario," said Chris Preston, teachers union president.
Even if voters approve the levy in May, the district still has to cut $750,000 from next year's budget. If the levy doesn't pass, the district will then have to cut about $1.8 million from next year's budget.
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