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Southwest Ohio’s 1st school security tax loses in Butler County

Issue 2 — the first school security tax hike tried in Southwest Ohio — was rejected by Butler County voters in the five school systems where it was on the ballot.

To win, the 1.5-mill tax hike needed more than a 50 percent majority in the combined vote total from Hamilton, Fairfield, Edgewood, Monroe and New Miami schools.

But the vote tally late Tuesday evening showed the proposed property tax increase losing by a margin of 53 to 47 percent, according to unofficial final results from the Butler County Board of Elections.

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The defeat means millions of dollars of funding that would have gone to helping protect school building from violent attacks — and provide mental health counseling — for more than 28,000 students in the five districts will now have to come from other funding sources in each of the five school systems.

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An Ohio law, enacted in March in the wake of deadly school shootings in Florida, Texas and elsewhere, created the new school taxing option that required participating districts to agree to form a taxing district to put the security tax on the ballot.

Larry Knapp, superintendent of the 10,000-student Hamilton Schools, said the ballot defeat was “it is disappointing that the levy was not successfully supported, but we accept the outcome and can find some consolation that we will not be losing any current services as a result of this setback.”

“That being said, it is disheartening as to the help and support that will not be made available for those students who truly need it,” said Knapp who along with superintendents of the other four districts campaigned hard to convince voters that funding more mental health counselors to aid troubled students was as important as adding armed security guards to schools.

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Edgewood Schools Superintendent Russ Fussnecker, whose district had taken the lead last school year among area schools by adding armed security guards to all its schools, said the increasing possibility of deadly violence in all American schools made the new type of school levy necessary.

“In today’s environment, we are constantly faced with finding more ways to protect our kids from the constant threats that exist in our world and in our community,” said Fussnecker.

“It’s disheartening to see a levy fail, especially one that was 100 percent focused on the safety, security, and mental health well-being of our students,” he said.

The school tax was a new concept and it also faced unprecedented opposition from Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones and a handful of other local public office holders.

Jones moved against the proposed tax increase early, dubbing it a “money grab” even before officials from Hamilton, Fairfield, Edgewood, Monroe and New Miami schools launched their campaigns in August.

Jones contended the five districts should pay for school security enhancements out of their existing budgets.

“It (Issue 2) was ill-conceived from the beginning,” he said. “People are against new taxes and it’s hard for any new school tax to pass anyways.”

For New Miami Schools resident Denny Callahan the school tax hike was a no vote.

“It is always something and like Sheriff Jones said they (the five districts) already had (millions of dollars) in reserve and they want more and more,” said Callahan.

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