The Hilliard City Schools' mission statement is "to prepare every student to be Ready for Tomorrow."

Our "Ready for Tomorrow" commitment isn't merely a "catchphrase" above our entrances or a hashtag used on Twitter. "Ready for Tomorrow" is our passion, our commitment to each student and our implicit promise to our parents.

Hilliard schools leaders take pride in our forward-thinking, our innovative practices and our shifting instructional practices to prepare today's students for tomorrow's demands.

The reality of our district's operation is we make every decision with the understanding that we have limited resources. As I often share in public meetings, "we would run schools very differently if money wasn't an issue." There are many changes we would make in public schools, but we balance educational opportunities with responsible stewardship of public tax dollars.

As district leaders, we acknowledge the tax burden placed on residential homeowners in our community. We have among the highest property taxes in Franklin County.

The structure of school funding has been the topic of debate at the state level for decades. In Hilliard, only a fraction of our state taxes are returned to the district through the state foundational formula. Our local community leaders have been actively working in bring commercial and industrial partners to our area; businesses help diversify our tax base.

In 2016 the district's levy commitment was to stretch our levy cycle to four years. We are poised to keep that promise. The district also is mindful to act with purpose between levy requests to keep future millage as low as possible. As leaders, we aim to protect the quality of instruction, promote efficiency through innovation and creativity and attract and retain the very best teachers in Ohio.

With our budget in mind, we often make decisions to both promote innovation and improve efficiency. By being more efficient, by stretching your tax dollars, we can keep future levy requests smaller. It won't keep us off the ballot, but it will permit less millage to be requested.

For example, the 2020-21 school year will see the launch of the Britton-Norwich elementary-school campus. In 2021-2022, we will merge Alton Darby and Darby Creek elementary schools to form the Alton Darby Creek Campus.

In both these instances, by creating a K-2 and a 3-5 building on a single campus, we improve efficiency and are better able to balance class sizes. With current enrollment, there are approximately 600 students at Alton Darby and 400 students at Darby Creek. Furthermore, the Alton Darby building's enrollment projections show even more students coming in the future. In these two cases, we can increase efficiency without losing the appeal of our neighborhood elementary schools. Greater efficiency will lead to smaller levy requests.

At the high school level, the district had a "scheduling and staff audit" conducted in 2019. The audit revealed opportunities to improve efficiency in our scheduling process. These changes continue to ask more of our teachers and professional staff.

We know that asking some teachers to teach an extra course, increasing their course-load to six classes, creates stress and takes away some opportunities for personalization. The data from the audit points to significant savings for the district. By changing schedules, the millage of the next levy and beyond can be reduced.

Every educator would like to see class sizes in the low 20s and additional planning and preparation time for teachers; every parent desires for the fewest transitions and greatest stability for their children. No one wants our students glued to digital screens all day, and we all want our young people to develop and cultivate life skills that will pave the way for future success.

We live and prepare students in a rapidly changing world that demands changes in our instructional practices. With positive intent, your school district is committed to continual reflection, a passion for growth and a balanced budgetary approach.

Together, we can continue on our journey to be an elite school district. We have exceptional teachers and staff members in this community; we have a supportive school board and area leaders. Columbus is one of the fastest-growing and developing metropolitan areas in America. We get to prepare this next generation to thrive here at home in greater Columbus.

The balance between the budget and instructional needs is real. As leaders, we intentionally study each expenditure.

With 86% of our budget dedicated to salary and benefits, our resources are invested in the people in the classrooms. Our teachers are our front line; they are the heroes that work with our students every day. We ask more from our teachers than at any other time in education.

Our focus must be on providing the resources and support necessary to prepare every student to be ready for tomorrow.

Hilliard City Schools Superintendent John Marschhausen writes the Hilliard Schools Connection guest column for the ThisWeek Hilliard Northwest News.