‘There is simply not enough money’ to maintain Forest Hills schools, superintendent says


CINCINNATI (Enquirer) – Forest Hills School District Superintendent Larry Hook paints a bleak picture of the district’s current finances in a statement and video released Wednesday morning.

He will present further details at Wednesday evening’s school board meeting, according to our media partners at the Enquirer.

“There is simply not enough money to maintain what we are currently doing,” Hook said in the video.

Administrators and the school board have been “taking a deeper look at the financial health of our organization” over the last month, Hook said, and discussing “different scenarios” to address the issues. The problem is there “despite efforts by the district to reduce costs,” he said in the video.

The scenario causing the most controversy among residents is a plan to consolidate Turpin and Anderson high schools, which the district and board have confirmed they are considering although they say no final decisions have been made.

Hook provided a preview of Wednesday evening’s presentation in the video, with key points:

  • As of this school year, the district is in deficit spending because the cost of educating students and running the district is outpacing revenues.
  • Roughly 85% of the annual budget pays for personnel. Since 2018, Forest Hills has reduced 20 full-time positions including 14 teaching positions by attrition.
  • A $103 million facilities project was mostly funded by a 2014 bond issue, but the project ended up costing about $10 million more than anticipated, a good portion of which came out of the general fund. Another portion of the debt is being paid annually from the district’s permanent improvement fund.
  • Improvements are needed to things such as roofs, parking lots, security cameras and school buses; the price tag for them is at least $5 million. “Not making these improvements could be even costlier,” Hook said.
  • Schools in Ohio will need to continue asking taxpayers for additional funding because state school funding does not address inflation.

“We need to understand the problems we are facing in order to make decisions to set Forest Hills up for a strong future,” Hook said. “There’s no sugarcoating it: we are facing some significant challenges and difficult choices. That’s why every possible option is on the table.”

The district will provide more information about some of those options “in the near future,” Hook said, but likely not at Wednesday’s board meeting.

“Let me be crystal clear: no plan has been decided on and it will take time for us to decide as a community and to properly analyze and discuss our path forward,” Hook said. “As we move forward, the best interest of our students must be at the forefront.”

Wednesday’s school board meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. at Mercer Elementary School, located at 2600 Bartels Road. The full agenda can be found here.

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