Ross Local Schools voters reject tax hike for third time

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

ROSS TWP. — Voters in Butler County’s financially struggling Ross school system dealt a third, consecutive defeat Tuesday to the idea of hiking their school tax bills.

Unofficial counts by the county’s board of elections late Tuesday evening showed Ross’ proposed 5-year, 9.44-mill emergency property tax increase losing by a 59% to 41% margin with 100% of the vote tallied.

The ballot loss is the third suffered by the district in nine months and pushes the 2,800-student school system closer to state takeover due to its inability to generate enough local school tax revenue to cover a growing, projected budget deficit.

Officials with Ross had warned the community millions of dollars in sweeping student program and school personnel cuts would follow a third straight voter rejection.

Moreover, they said the district’s “fiscal caution” status as determined by reviews of both the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) and the Ohio Auditor’s Office, will now mean state officials are closer to dictating the size of the next, larger school levy, which will likely be on the ballot later this year.

If the levy had been approved, it would have raised the annual school rate for a $100,000 home by $330.

The ballot defeat will trigger millions of dollars in additional school budget cuts for the next two school years with deep impacts on what has been in the last decade-plus one of Butler County’s most successful school systems.

Mandy Rice, campaign manager for the pro-levy effort, said levy outcome reflects the community’s wish “for a certain caliber of school and that is exactly what the community is going to get.”

“A school system is only as great as the community that votes for or against it,” Rice told the Journal-News.

“Just like when a business doesn’t have revenue, it has to make those (budget) cuts and that is exactly what has to happen.”

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