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Five-district levy would give Butler County schools more resource officers, mental health services

Posted at 7:26 PM, Sep 21, 2018

HAMILTON, Ohio -- Hamilton City Schools Superintendent Larry Knapp hopes November will bring his district its first real cash infusion in a quarter-century. 

If voters approve a new school security levy, his and four other local school districts will be able to implement a variety of safety-oriented upgrades such as installing metal detectors in school buildings, providing mental health outreach and hiring additional resource officers.

"We have five now," Knapp said. "We're adding two more in November through the Hamilton Police Department, and we would like to add six or seven more."

If he gets his wish, each of Hamilton City Schools' 13 buildings will have an armed resource officer assigned to it.

The 10-year levy would tax homeowners in participating districts -- Hamilton, Fairfield, Edgewood, Monroe and New Miami -- an additional $53 for every $100,000 their home is worth. (Online real estate database Zillow estimates the median home value in Butler County around $167,200.) Money generated in each district would go directly back in rather than being distributed among all five participants.

Hamiltonian Alfred Hall said he supported the measure, which would generate around $1.2 million for Hamilton City Schools over the next decade.

"I think we should be spending money on the things government is supposed ot be spending money on, and keeping citizens safe is one of those things," he said.

Perhaps surprisingly, Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones said he didn't. 

Jones, a nationally outspoken proponent of arming school staff members to deter would-be shooters such as Parkland's Nikolas Cruz, spent the summer questioning Hamilton City Schools' existing safety protocols -- most notably via billboard.

However, when the levy was proposed, Jones called it a "money grab." According to him and other opponents, including former Fairfield Board of Education member Arnie Engel, the increased property tax was ill-considered and would put undue strain on local homeowners.

"It appears to me that this issue and this levy has not been well thought out," Engel told the Journal-News. "I would suggest the citizens of Butler County vote no on this levy unless there is a realistic and specific plan in place to address the root cause of our schools' violent and tragic events."

Knapp defended the measure and said he believed his district's long financial drought justified finally asking for more money.

Voters will be able to decide for themselves Nov. 6.