It’s official: Voters in 5 school districts control fate of new security tax hike

It’s official: For the first time residents in five separate Butler County school systems will decide on the same school security tax on the fall ballot.

Wednesday was the Ohio election deadline for filing tax issues for the November ballot, and the new tax finance district — with member school districts Edgewood, Fairfield, Hamilton, Monroe and New Miami — will be among the issues decided by local voters.

Officials with the Butler County Board of Elections confirmed the group’s tax issue, which is overseen by the Butler County Educational Services Center (BCESC), will be on the Nov. 6 ballot in the five school systems.

Voters in those five districts will decide on a 10-year, 1.5-mill school security tax that is now allowed under a recently created Ohio law where coalitions of school districts can work collectively to seek more local tax revenue specifically to pay for better school safety personnel and other related security measures.

The new proposed tax also allows local schools to fund more mental health counselors as part of their overall strategies to enhance security in schools by offering more resources for troubled and potentially violent students.

If approved by voters, the new school tax would annually cost approximately $53 more for the owner of a $100,000 home — though BCESC officials said that estimate will vary somewhat given house valuations in each of the five participating 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.

Should the new tax issue earn a combined, winning vote total from all five districts, it would impact more than 28,000 students in the school systems.

BCESC Superintendent Chris Brown said, “the safety, security and well-being of our students continues to be the number one priority for districts not only in southwest Ohio, but nationwide.”

“Due to the unique needs of each district, this levy will fund different solutions for each of them. Participating districts will soon embark on information-sharing campaigns to inform their respective communities of plans moving forward,” said Brown.

Fairfield Schools Superintendent Billy Smith said his 10,000-student district joined the four other members of the new school taxing district because “providing a safe, secure, and positive learning environment for our students and staff has been and will continue to be a priority for our school district.”

A ballot win for the tax will mean school resource officers will be assigned to all buildings in Fairfield City Schools, he said.

“This (school tax district) is very unique because it allows school districts to use the revenue generated from the levy for mental health services. This was very attractive for us because our district has been committed to providing our students and their families with resources in the area of mental health,” said Smith.

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