After suffering defeat at the polls last fall, another ballot offering of the same income tax hike for Ross Schools won voter approval Tuesday.
The rural Butler County school system saw its proposed .05 percent earned income tax increase win easily, 54 percent to 46 percent, according to unofficial vote tallies Tuesday evening by county election officials.
A second defeat for the tax hike would have meant historically deep budget cuts in personnel, programs, school security and sports budgets for next school year, Ross officials had warned prior to Tuesday’s vote.
Instead, high school busing will return for the first time in nearly a decade, school building security will be enhanced, and programs will be funded and staffed by August’s start of the 2019-20 school year, said school officials.
“I’d like to thank the community for their support. We truly believe this is an investment in quality,” said Ross Schools Superintendent Scott Gates. “Ross will use this money to keep operations moving forward, bring back bus stop routing for grades 9-12 and consider additional SRO’s (school resource officers) and security measures.
“Transportation for students in grades 9-12 is the first item of business. We will need to start verifying high school riders so that efficient routing can be determined.”
The .05 percent earned income tax will now be added on to the existing and permanent .75 percent earned income tax used to help fund the 2,800-student district in Southwestern Butler County.
The income tax option is rarely used among Ohio’s 613 public school districts and largely favored by bedroom communities with relatively small business tax base such as Ross.
An earned income school tax is assessed against salaries, wages, and self-employment earnings only. All other types of income — such as pensions and interest income — are excluded from the tax.
In the last decade Ross Schools have consistently been among the top academic performing districts in Butler County.
According to the most recent Ohio Department of Education’s annual report card of school districts, Ross Schools earned an overall grade of “B,” which was the highest grade given to a handful of districts in the county.
The state report also showed Ross High School had earned the highest Performance Index score of any high school in Butler County for the third time in the last four years and the school has the county’s highest graduation rate for seven of the past eight years.
“We believe our approach to this campaign was different,” said Gates. “We listened to our community and shared the information they felt was important to hear. We also worked to get in front of our community to share our story.”
“The board will also continue to look at cost saving measures to continue to be good stewards of taxpayer money,” he said.