School security tax: Sheriff objects to plan as boards make decision

Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones said he currently doesn’t favor a new school security tax being considered by many local districts for the fall ballot. This is a key week as a deadline for joining a collective of school districts wanting to put a 1.5 mill tax hike to fund security upgrades on the November ballot approaches.
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Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones said he currently doesn’t favor a new school security tax being considered by many local districts for the fall ballot. This is a key week as a deadline for joining a collective of school districts wanting to put a 1.5 mill tax hike to fund security upgrades on the November ballot approaches.

It’s a key week for Butler County school boards as they near the deadline for deciding whether to collectively put a security tax levy on the fall ballot.

And the county’s top law enforcement officer — Sheriff Richard Jones — has now entered the public discussions revealing he is no fan of the new, proposed school tax despite his strong advocacy for improving school security.

Under an agreement with the Butler County Educational Services (BCES), the 10 public school districts in the county have until Thursday to decide whether they will ask their residents to approve a 1.5-mill school security tax hike in November.

In an informal vote at the BCES headquarters in Hamilton earlier this month, six favored proceeding with the process of putting a tax hike on the Nov. 6 ballot: Hamilton, Fairfield, New Miami, Monroe, Ross and Edgewood.

Explore MORE: Some local school districts plan to put new school security levy on fall ballot

Three school districts — Madison, Middletown and Talawanda — have decided not to participate in this fall’s levy issue.

Lakota Local Schools officials will decide at its Thursday board meeting whether to join in asking its residents to approve the 10-year property tax increase.

Explore MORE: Lakota board member says new school security tax not needed

BCES and school district officials agreed to a June 28 deadline for deciding to join the new school taxing district.

Chris Brown, superintendent of the BCES, said, “we have received official withdraw from Madison and I was told last night that Edgewood voted to join at their meeting night and that Middletown tabled the vote to gather more community input.”

“So as of this minute we have Edgewood in, Madison and Middletown out. I expect votes this week in a number of other districts,” said Brown, who added he isn’t surprised by some districts declining to sign up for the new tax, which was created for Ohio schools by a new law approved in March.

“I understand that each district has its own unique characteristics in regards to finances and safety. Each district must examine all factors when choosing any type of levy and this would be no different,” he said.

Jones sharply criticized Hamilton’s school board for its participation as he unveiled what he said Monday will be the first of a series of billboards critical of some local school boards he claims have been slow to make school security upgrades a priority.

Explore MORE: Sheriff unveils billboard blasting Hamilton’s school board

Jones said his objections about the proposed school tax hike is partially based on the rapid time schedule participants are pushing to get the 1.5 mills certified for the ballot — determining how much each district will collect over the levy’s 10 years.

“Some of these school boards — including Hamilton — are trying to put this on the ballot for quick, fast money,” said Jones.

“I want schools to be safe but at this point, until they prove to me what they are going to spend this money for, I’m not going to support this levy,” he said. “I believe most of them (districts) already have enough money to (improve) school security.”

But, Jones added, “I could change my mind.”