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Ohio Districts Consider Taxes to Fund Security Systems

Michael Nutter

July 3, 2018

The Butler County Educational Service Center is in the process of proposing a levy to fund school security systems in its constituent districts.

In an act of protest ripped straight from the movies, Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones recently unveiled a privately-funded billboard designed to pressure local school districts into strengthening their building security.

The billboard calls on the board of Hamilton City Schools to do whatever it takes to keep students safe. “This billboard is one of many that are going up throughout the county,” Jones tells The Journal-News. “I want schools to be safe.”

Thanks to Substitute Senate Bill 226, Jones may soon get his wish. Signed into law by Governor Kasich in March, Sub. S.B. 226 “permits a county school financing district [CSFD] to levy taxes for provision of school safety and security and mental health services, including training and employment of or contracting for the services of safety personnel, mental health personnel, social workers, and counselors.”

As of mid-May, only one of Ohio’s 88 counties had concrete plans to act on Sub. S.B. 226, but The Journal-News reports that the Butler County Educational Service Center (BCESC) may bring the issue before voters sooner rather than later.

Strong Initial Support for a School Safety Levy

Last month, representatives from nine of the BCESC’s ten constituent districts (the Talawanda School District opted not to participate) held an informal, non-binding vote on whether to place a ten-year, $1.5 million school levy on the ballot this November. Six districts — including Hamilton — indicated support for the levy, while both Madison Local Schools and Middletown City Schools opposed it.

Lakota Local Schools was recorded as a “No” vote at the meeting, but district officials insist that they remain undecided. “For us in Lakota, this feels rushed compared to the way we do levies,” says District Treasurer Jenni Logan. “New levy or not, we always need to do more to make sure that kids feel safe, but there has not been time to engage our community.”

Middletown City Schools Board Member Michelle Novak cited a similar frustration while discussing her district’s opposition to the levy, explaining that “it’s really important to first get feedback from our constituents.”

The six pro-levy districts do have the option of forming a CSFD that excludes Madison and Middletown, which means that as long as all six district boards express support for the tax, voters are likely to see the initiative on the ballot come November.

Making the Most of Every Dollar

Regardless of whether voters end up approving the BCESC levy, what’s clear is that safety and security should always be among schools’ foremost priorities. As the Rural School and Community Trust points out, “[While] no single action will prevent all incidents of violence in schools…there are many things that can be done to reduce the likelihood of a violent event.”

But while precautions like security cameras, high-tech door locks, duress alarms, and armed school safety officers have been shown to have varying degrees of effectiveness, none of them come cheap.

That’s why it’s so important for districts to secure the maximum amount of funding to which they’re entitled — whether it comes from federal, state, or CSFD sources. Fortunately, with Vinson’s CheckPoint EMIS platform, district stakeholders can be confident that their student enrollment data is always accurate and properly formatted for submission to state Departments of Education.

As Ross Local Schools Superintendent Scott Gates observes, “School safety is a complex issue that needs a collective and collaborative approach.” At Vinson, we’re committed to playing our small part in ensuring that every child in Ohio is provided with the safe, high-quality education they deserve.

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