School board member says new security tax isn’t needed

Veteran Lakota Board of Education member Todd Parnell says a new school security tax option — now allowed by state law — is not a good fit for 16,500-student school system. Parnell said the board should ignore that six other Butler County districts are forming a new taxing district to put a tax hike on the fall ballot.
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Veteran Lakota Board of Education member Todd Parnell says a new school security tax option — now allowed by state law — is not a good fit for 16,500-student school system. Parnell said the board should ignore that six other Butler County districts are forming a new taxing district to put a tax hike on the fall ballot.

A Lakota Local Schools board member said district officials are headed in the right direction by initially rejecting a new Ohio school tax hike option to pay for building security.

Lakota Board of Education member Todd Parnell said he wants Butler County’s largest school system to reject the idea of joining six other local districts in asking voters for a school levy to fund more school security.

Explore MORE: New school security tax option has some Butler County districts planning to ask for tax hike

Earlier Lakota Schools Treasurer Jenni Logan explained to officials with the overseeing Butler County Educational Services Center (BCESC) that Lakota is undecided about joining the creation of a new county school financing district.

Six of Butler County’s 10 public school districts have to date indicated they will ask their residents to approve a 10-year, 1.5-mill tax hike in the fall.

Districts so far supporting the school levy are: Fairfield, Hamilton, Ross, Edgewood, New Miami and Monroe.

Opposing are: Middletown, Talawanda and Madison.

Logan said she needed more time to discuss the possibility with Lakota board members.

Explore MORE: New state option allows local schools to go to voters for school security tax hike

The five-member Lakota board meets next on June 28, just two days before the June 30 deadline to join the pro-tax group. Under the new law, Lakota would have vote to opt out of the tax option by a simple majority if that is the direction it chooses to go.

The new school security taxing option, which went into effect statewide in March, is being fast-tracked by BCESC officials to meet the state’s filing deadline of Aug. 8 for placement on the November ballot.

Parnell said that rapid pace of putting the school levy on the ballot is just one of the reasons why he opposes asking Lakota taxpayers for more money for school security. The other, larger reason is that Lakota doesn’t need the money, he said.

Explore MORE: Butler County Sheriff pressures school districts to move faster on upgrading security

“We are already paying too much (tax) money and we do not need to go back to the taxpayers for more money,” said Parnell, who has a record of fiscal conservatism that has sometimes clashed with fellow board members in the past.

He said Lakota officials have reported a large budget surplus and the district is projected to be financially solvent in the coming years.

Parnell said student safety is the highest priority, but added that Lakota is already outpacing most other local districts in having armed school police officers patrol its 22 buildings as well as installing high-tech security devices and procedures.

Moreover, he said, voters already approved a tax hike in 2013 whose campaign selling points included using millions of dollars raised by the tax to enhance school building safety.

“We haven’t discussed this as a board, but we don’t need to be part of this levy. I’ve talked to a large number of community members and I have not found one person in favor of this thing,” said Parnell.

Fairfield City Schools Superintendent Billy Smith said the initial split between local districts backing the new tax and those who don’t — at least so far — isn’t surprising.

“We all have different needs,” said Smith.

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