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Hamilton Schools breaks down security tax

Hamilton Schools Superintendent Larry Knapp makes a presentation on a proposed security tax during a public town hall meeting Tuesday evening to a small gathering at First Baptist Church in Hamilton. The public meeting, which was designed to build support for a 1.5-mill security tax for the city schools, was one of three planned before voters decide on the tax hike in November.
Hamilton Schools Superintendent Larry Knapp makes a presentation on a proposed security tax during a public town hall meeting Tuesday evening to a small gathering at First Baptist Church in Hamilton. The public meeting, which was designed to build support for a 1.5-mill security tax for the city schools, was one of three planned before voters decide on the tax hike in November.

The turnout was small for Hamilton Schools’ latest town hall meeting on its proposed security tax hike, but district officials said they weren’t discouraged and will continue to push their campaign message.

The Tuesday evening public meeting at the First Baptist Church in Hamilton drew about a half dozen residents who were outnumbered by school officials.

But Hamilton Board of Education member Laurin Sprague said the Nov. 6 election day when residents will decide on a 1.5-mill security tax increase is a long way off and he expects bigger crowds at the next two scheduled public meetings.

Explore MORE: New kind of school security tax headed to November ballot for 5 districts

“It’s not a huge turnout, but I’m hoping as we get closer to the election we’ll see more people turn out,” said Sprague, who was one of two board members attending the meeting — Tom Alf was the other — as designated board representatives.

“Things are just starting to get out the gate,” he said, adding that his sense is the community largely favors the 10-year property tax increase that would fund school building security improvements.

“Certainly the idea of school security is on everybody’s mind and I haven’t heard one school resident say they would not vote for it,” said Sprague.

The previous security town hall meeting at Hamilton’s central office drew an overflow crowd in August.

Explore MORE: Large crowd shows divided opinions on Hamilton school security

Hamilton Schools Superintendent Larry Knapp went through a 30-minute presentation on the proposed tax, which would raise $1.2 million dollars for enhanced security during its decade of collection.

Hamilton is one of five Butler County school districts who have formed a single taxing district as now allowed under Ohio law to place the security tax levy on the ballot. Joining Hamilton are Fairfield, Edgewood, Monroe and New Miami school districts.

If voters in a school system do not approve the new tax — but the tax wins voter approval in other participating districts — residents in the district where the tax was defeated will still have to pay the tax increase and will also receive the new funds for their local schools.

Explore MORE: Sheriff blasts new school security tax as ‘money grab’

Knapp said the new state law provides the 10,000-student with a historically unique opportunity to make schools safer.

Society has changed in recent years and so to are the problems students bring to schools, said Knapp.

“We have to deal with threats of violence and violent activity,” he said.

He echoed officials from other participating districts who say while adding more armed guards to schools is a key component of the new tax funding, the addition of mental health counselors, which is also allowed under the new tax, is paramount.

If the levy is approved by voters, during its 10-year life 35 percent or $412,600 of the total revenue of $1.2 million collected for Hamilton Schools would go to school mental health programs.

Explore MORE: Hamilton Schools detail security tax plans

The remaining distribution of the funds would be $565,052, or 47 percent, to pay for more armed, school resource officers in schools and $213,050, or 18 percent, for security technology upgrades including cameras, sensors and other safety equipment.

“The need is real and we’ve gone 25 years without asking for a new operating levy,” said Knapp.

If approved by Hamilton residents on the Nov. 6 ballot — and a combined majority of voters in four other school districts — the 1.5-mill property tax increase would on average cost the owner of a $100,000 home an annual increase of $52.

MORE DETAILS

Two more town hall meetings about the levy and school security issues are scheduled:

  • 7 p.m. Oct. 16 at the Booker T. Washington Community Center, 1149 S. Front St.
  • 7 p.m. Oct. 23 at Lindenwald United Methodist Church, 3501 Pleasant Ave.