Ross Schools to make budget cuts, raise sports fees following levy defeat

Issue will be on ballot again in November.

Higher sports fees and more program budget cuts are coming in the wake of Tuesday’s rejection by voters of a proposed Ross Schools tax hike, said district officials.

And some school parents and residents Wednesday criticized the leadership of the 3,200-student district, contending the wide margin of defeat for the tax levy, which was voted down 64% to 36%, according to the unofficial vote tally from the Butler County Board of Elections, was also a “message” to officials.

ExploreRoss Schools levy defeated, officials say cuts are coming

Ross resident Lisa Emenaker said she voted no “because a message needs to be sent to (Ross) administrators that they need to be more responsible with their spending.”

Her vote, she said, “was not against the kids or the teachers, I want them to succeed. But I don’t think they (district officials) are being responsible enough with the money.”

Ross Superintendent Chad Konkle said more budget cuts will now come in the wake of the levy loss.

“Unfortunately, this loss forces us to make deeper cuts to our curriculum, programs and extracurriculars, which will be announced in the near future,” Konkle told the Journal-News.

“We were hopeful for a win but will continue to fight for our students in future levy attempts.”

Residents in the rural and suburban community will see the same 5-year, 7.99-mill, emergency property tax levy on the November ballot as the Ross Board of Education voted prior to this week’s election to publicize its intention should the levy’s first ballot try fail as it did Tuesday.

According to an analysis of unofficial vote totals, there were more than 13,201 eligible voters in the 18-precinct school district and 4,315 ballots were cast but only 4,176 voters actually checked one of the two boxes for the proposed levy, with 139 voters not casting a vote on the issue.

All but two precincts had more “no” votes, and one of those precincts had nine total votes cast. And of the top 10 precincts with the highest voter turnout, which ranged from 50.04% to 32.25%, nine of those 10 precincts overwhelmingly rejected the levy request.

If the levy had been approved, residents in the 2,800-student, largely rural school system would have seen their annual school property taxes for the owner of a $100,000 home increase by $279.65.

The ballot defeat now puts the school system, which traditionally has been among the highest academically ranked in Butler County and southwest Ohio, further along in the process that could eventually lead to a state takeover of many of the financial operations of school systems should future elections produce more levy losses.

The impact of a voter rejection of the proposed tax hike will be especially significant on Ross school families with children playing school sports.

According to the district, the defeat of the levy will raise the individual school sport “base participation fee” to $825 per sport with no individual student or family fee cap per school year.

Voter approval of the new school tax would have seen individual sports fee per student charged at $150 per sport with an individual cap of $300 with a family fee cap of $450.

Ross school parent Jessica Nicole Brown voted for levy despite being unable to work due to COVID-19 illnesses and said “I may have to tell my son he cannot play football and it breaks my heart.”

Resident Andrew Timme voted for the levy but said the overwhelming defeat was a reflection of dissatisfaction with Ross officials beyond rejecting the tax hike.

Timme said residents need to “vote out the mis-handlers of the funds.”

He cautioned those who voted “no” to “wake up to the reality that you will see this levy again and again until you pass it. It is inevitable.”