Ross, Talawanda school levies lose while Kings wins

Thousands of area school families closely watched election results Tuesday evening and saw all two of three school tax hikes rejected locally.

Ross and Talawanda school levies went down to defeat but Kings in southern Warren County saw voters approve that district’s first new operating levy since 2016.

Both Ross and Talawanda’s proposed property tax increases were defeated by relatively wide margins, according to unofficial ballot results reported by the Butler County Board of Elections.

And for Ross, it was the second consecutive defeat of the same proposed levy voters rejected in the August election.

The stakes at the ballot were the highest for Ross Schools as officials in that financially struggling district were hoping voters would raise their taxes to stave off looming state control of its operating budget as its financial deficit grows.

[ELECTION RESULTS: Live updates on state and local races and issues]

Voters in Butler County’s Ross Schools rejected again a 5-year, 7.99-mill, emergency operating property tax by a margin of about 61% to 39%, according to unofficial vote tallies from the Butler County Board of Election with all 18 precincts reporting late Tuesday evening.

Ross Superintendent Chad Konkle said in a concession statement sent to the Journal-News: “Needless to say, we are disappointed in the outcome.”

“The Ross Local School District would like to extend a sincere thank you to all who supported our levy … either at the ballot box or through levy efforts. We thank the passionate community members who worked tirelessly in defense of our schools and our students,” wrote Konkle.

And Talawanda school officials saw voters in the Oxford and surrounding communities of that school district defeating its 5.7-mill continuing operating tax late Tuesday evening to help fund daily operations of the district by 66% to 34%.

Talawanda’s pro-levy campaign faced one of the more organized opposition efforts among the three campaigns, organized by the Citizens for Responsible and Ethical School Spending (CRESS) anti-levy groups.

Like Ross Schools, Talawanda officials had pointed to changes last year in Ohio’s school funding formula as one of the major factors in causing their projected budgetary shortfalls.

Talawanda Superitendent Ed Theroux recently said: “Districts like Talawanda are expected to have their taxpayers make up the difference - through property taxes and levies - to pay for their schools.”

But, said Theroux, “the new (2021) student funding formula from the state was not positive for Talawanda. While other districts receive more of a state share per pupil, the simple fact is Talawanda does not receive enough money from our state share to pay for the services, education, and programs found at Talawanda.”

Tuesday’s voter rejection of the district’s 5.7-mill, continuing operating tax will now bring with it “difficult decisions,” he said.

Talawanda Spokeswoman Holli Hansel said late Tuesday evening: “With the defeat of the operating levy, our board of education will now face the difficult work ahead of determining next steps to deal with Talawanda’s impending financial crisis. Certainly, more information will be determined at a future board of education event.”

Officials in southern Warren County’s Kings Schools had campaigned with a public message emphasizing a similar problem of inadequate state funding – and a growing student enrollment – as prompting them to ask residents for a school tax hike of 6.4-mills continuing operating tax.

Officials have said since the passage of the last operating levy approved by voters in 2016 and Kings enrollment has since increased by 597 students resulting in increased expenses. That levy was projected at the time to last three years, but Kings stretched it out for six years, they said.

And voters in the Kings’ communities of Kings Mill, Landen, Deerfield Twp. and South Lebanon voted “yes” to the property tax hike with the Warren County Board of Elections’ unofficial ballot results showing it winning by a 55% to 45% margin with all precincts reporting Tuesday evening.

Kings Spokeswoman Dawn Gould said the levy win is a victory for the entire school community.

“We are humbled by the results of this election. The Kings community continues to demonstrate its value in high-quality education for our students,” said Gould.

“And we are thankful for the countless hours from our staff, parents, and community members in educating the community on the need for new revenue. We are fortunate to have such a supportive community that will enable us to further prepare students for career and college.”

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