Low turnouts continue for low-key school security tax campaigns

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Caption
Half of Butler County??€™s public school districts have a new type of security tax on the fall ballot.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The first collective school security tax campaign in Butler County history has so far also been one of the quietest.

Tuesday evening saw the latest example as only one resident showed up at a Fairfield Schools open forum to ask questions about the historic 1.5-mill school security tax on the ballot here and in four other local school systems.

Fairfield Superintendent Billy Smith and school board President Dan Hare sat waiting 90 minutes at the district’s central office, ready to field questions about the 10-year tax hike made possible for the first time in Ohio history after a new school funding law passed in March.

ExploreMORE: 5 Butler County school districts join to push for new security tax

Fairfield — along with Hamilton, Monroe, Edgewood and New Miami schools — were among the first in Ohio to use the new taxing option to form a tax district that allowed each school system to place the same tax hike on their local ballots.

The newness of this security tax issue, which is restricted by law to only spending money on school safety — including armed security officers and additional mental health counselors for students — may explain the low turnout, said school officials.

ExploreMORE: Fairfield school officials: Adding mental health counselors for students is top priority of proposed safety levy

The traditional school levy campaign, which includes creation of private fund-raising organizations to promote its passage, campaign events, ads and literature has proven too expensive for the five districts, which have instead conducted a purely informational campaign so far. The relatively low millage and narrow focus of the proposed tax also has forced a low-key approach, say officials from various school districts.

Hamilton Schools officials have held similar events with similar, low turnouts.

In contrast, opposition to the tax — led by Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones — has included several other elected office holders who when asked have criticized the proposed tax hike.

ExploreMORE: Sheriff and some other elected officials speak out against school security tax

“I just wanted to find out more about it. I’m really glad to see the emphasis on mental health counselors,” said resident Kim Hutchison, the lone resident, who wasn’t connected with the levy campaign who showed up to quiz Fairfield officials.

“It’s a new concept and I’ve worked on levies before,” said Hutchison in explaining why she has no prediction as to whether she expects the tax hike to win voter approval on Nov. 6.

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.

If approved, the property tax increase would cost an average of $52 annually for a $100,000 home.

“The (tax) money approved by Fairfield voters will stay in Fairfield Schools,” said Hare.

Despite Tuesday’s no-shows, Smith said community awareness of the levy is significant.

“We have received mostly positive feedback about the levy, especially from our parents. Many parents and community members are supportive of having (armed) school security resource officers in our schools, additional mental health services for our students, and upgrading our campuses from a safety and security perspective,” Smith said.

“I am hopeful that it passes. I am hopeful that people see the value in having a school resource officer in each of our buildings, providing mental health services and support to our students, and upgrading each of our campuses from a safety and security perspective,” he said.

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