An Open Letter to the Loveland Board of Education from Loveland VOICE:
VOICE is a grassroots organization representing ALL of Loveland. As our name implies, we are not your enemy, we are citizens concerned for the welfare of all. VOICE did not fail the recent Permanent Tax Levy: the citizens of Loveland failed the Levy 52%-48% for many reasons, some of which were compiled and listed in an article titled Why People Vote No. VOICE’s purpose is to ask questions and inform citizens on the broader facts of an issue or narrative and to hold the district accountable to justifying expenditures of public money. VOICE originated after the 2019 levy when it was apparent that the district was not being truthful about its needs or communicating well with the community. We understand that the district had operated without public scrutiny for many years and that it can be uncomfortable to have the curtain pulled back and receive criticism. Some in our community have even been offended by our efforts. Public education, however, is a service to the community, paid for by taxpayers. Therefore the school is a servant, not the master, and should be able to operate with humility and correction when necessary.
The School Board has not represented the community. Rather, it has acted merely as an advocate for the school. The Board should intelligently consider the entire Loveland community represented in three different counties and several socio-economic neighborhoods. The Board’s decisions impact the whole community and should not be overwhelmingly influenced by “in-house” thinking. The VOICE and numerous individual citizens suggest that, moving forward, the Board seriously consider alternatives to constantly choosing PERMANENT property taxes. The burden on senior citizens, long-term residents and low-income families is destructive and pushes people deeper into poverty or out of the community. Moreover, the rising property tax burden does not maintain property values more than it simply discourages all but higher income earners from purchasing homes in our community. Pushing an older generation or middle class taxpayers out to make room for young families who will bring more money is not a healthy or unifying way to build a community. The current path is unsustainable, as has been repeated by businessmen and other ordinary citizens since 2020. We do not want to constantly reside in a victim status created by H.B.920, and we need to take the time to consider the alternatives and change the status quo.
The VOICE has been mocked for its themes of trust and transparency, and yet getting simple answers for simple questions, like what is the true number of teachers and why a lower number was used for a live levy session, has been virtually impossible. To understand real budget numbers, numerous questions must be asked, resulting in accusations that individuals are using up district time and resources. When the contingency fee was explained at a board meeting, it created confusion about where the money came from and how the bucket was to be refilled. The district clearly avoided directly addressing the issue several times when clarification was sought. Citizens must be able to understand how and why their money is being spent in a clear, not obfuscated or cherry-picked, fashion. Please don’t announce that you will have to cut 50 teachers if the levy fails and then, after the levy fails, announce that no decisions have been made about future funding requests or budget cuts. We have good, honest people in our community. Please don’t sell us a levy with fear. Please give us the whole truth so we can be informed and make up our own minds. It is our money, and they are our kids, not yours. Please don’t resist transparency — proactive transparency builds trust. You do not build trust by talking at people. Has the greater community ever been invited to engage in a discussion where the conversation was not directed by the school?
Please consider curbing expenditures in a time of economic hardship. There are many ways we can think of to trim the budget before cuts are even considered. Before approving the next budget forecast in November please remove from the budget the amounts that were added in anticipation of passing a levy. Strip the budget of money for potential new teachers or possible bus drivers, and put the contingency fee money back into the baseline cash balance. Please justify your expenditures instead of vaguely claiming that you need money to “maintain educational programming”. This purposely leaves it to the public to fill in the blank. If you are putting a levy on the ballot, every dollar you are asking for should be accounted for publicly. Please don’t hold on to our money for us, promising not to spend it until you need to, when we might need that money right now for our families and our own basic living expenses.
We kept hearing the message that things were changing, but it seems that things continue to be done as they were in the past. This community infighting was created by you, the Board. It pits neighbor against neighbor, friend against friend. It is unnecessary! We all want what is best for the community and what is best for the schools. It took years to get us to this point of “bridge failure”, and it will take time to repair the damage. You alone have been entrusted with the power and responsibility to solve this problem. Make the decisions necessary to fix the budget and reduce the excessive spending that is so obvious to many of us. Pushing this off until another permanent levy finally passes will not fix anything. The fighting will still be there, and the community will pay the price. Take responsibility. The fix is NOT cutting services, it is proper budgeting and spending. It is time to change how we do things because we cannot afford to keep repeating past mistakes. Whether levies pass or fail, we must all return to living together in the same community. We would like to believe our Board has the will and courage to do hard things, to actively listen to dissenters, and to bring unity out of the division we have experienced in Loveland.
Loveland VOICE (Voter Oversight, Interest and Concern for Education)