UPDATE: Hamilton County officials meet to discuss proposed school budget
Hamilton County officials held a round table discussion about this year's budget and the proposed tax increase.
They talked about almost every aspect of the school budget ranging from mental health to school resource officers.
Superintendent Dr. Bryan Johnson said that providing specialty programs for kids that may not want to go to college has played a major role in postgraduate success.
"We want students to understand every access point; we want them to understand a couple of things,” Dr. Johnson said. “One, their interests and then two, where are the jobs?"
Dr. Johnson said the increase in the investment in technology will drastically help students since there will be an additional 2,000-4,000 jobs in the stem field.
He said the increase in access for students in this county will help them prepare for the future. Dr. Johnson also took the opportunity to address mental health in schools.
"We had listening sessions and we went out into the community and mental health was a thing," he said. "We have a student advisory group that meets on a monthly basis with myself directly and we heard mental health is a thing. We met with a parent group in the community and we heard it was a thing."
Dr. Johnson said it wasn't just students and parent, but teachers asking for focus on mental health in schools.
"This is not just something we see in schools that are stricken with poverty, we see this permeate our school district," he said. "So it doesn't matter what part of our county you're in mental health is hitting every single part of our area."
Don Mueller, CEO of Children's Hospital at Erlanger said mental health care starts in school.
"It doesn't start at the hospital, we're at the point of failure," said Mueller. "We're seeing these kids in the emergency room when the infrastructure has failed."
Mueller said it's about early intervention.
"So the way to get to them earlier is to identify them in the school system before they get to the hospital," he said. "These students with these mental health conditions are very likely to drop out of school, many of these kids never make it to a secondary education."
To identify a child struggling it takes a trained eye, and it requires resources.
"Mental health treatment doesn't start in the hospital," said Mueller. "It starts with the school and it starts with the mental health professionals in the school budget to help them take care of it."
The proposed budget will provide one counselor for every 500 elementary schools students. The national average is one to 250.
That's the same average for social workers, and Hamilton County only has one social worker to every 3,000 students.
"This proposal allows us to get to 1/1,500. So we're not at the national average but this budget allows us to get a little bit closer," said Dr. Johnson.
Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger and Sheriff Jim Hammond took a moment to speak to Channel 3 before their round table, Monday. Mayor Coppinger said he's hopeful his 819 million dollar budget will pass. It would result in a .34 cent tax increase for education for Hamilton County property owners.
"I'm always optimistic that it will when you start looking at what the needs are in this county and wanting to improve it," said Mayor Coppinger. "We've realized a lot of accomplishments working together over the last decade."
The school system would receive $65 million in funding. Extra funds will go towards teacher raises, more Student Resource Officers, and more counselors.
"Again we have that momentum and we want to sustain that momentum and we hear from employers constantly that we got to have that work force and that's what our public schools are responsible for, helping that next generation of work force," said Mayor Coppinger.
Sheriff Hammond said when people are moving into communities they want to know about education and safety and security. That's why his portion of the budget is crucial.
"As you can imagine, I've got one of the largest budgets at nearly $60 million dollars, and I've also got a jail that is falling apart at the seams that has to be replaced, I inherited the work house a couple years ago and all of that's expensive," said Sheriff Hammond.
Sheriff Hammond said the commissioners have a tough job to do, and he trusts them to make the best decision for the county.
Channel 3 asked what will happen if the budget doesn't pass.
"We don't play worst case scenario," said Mayor Coppinger. "We just look at the reality of what happens and we'll go to another alternative plan. I'm hopeful that people understand and the commission understands why it is."
Channel 3 reached out to all 9 Hamilton County Commissioners today to see where they stand on the June 26th budget vote here are there answers:
- District One Commissioner Randy Fairbanks -- NO --"I will be voting No on the budget request that includes a tax increase. Two increases in two years is too hard on the senior population.
- District Two Commissioner Chip Baker -- UNDECIDED -- wants to hear more opinions on both sides.
- District Three Commissioner Greg Martin -- WAITING FOR VOTE --"The vote is on June 26th, I will cast my vote that day."
- District Four Commissioner Warren Mackey -- NO RESPONSE
- District Five Commissioner Katherlyn Geter -- WAITING FOR VOTE-- "I'm looking forward to giving my vote next week on the 26th. Just would encourage everyone to continue to life and share their voice to the commission body. Engagement and participation is so important."
- District Six Commissioner David Sharpe -- NO RESPONSE
- District Seven Commissioner Sabrena Smedly -- NO -- She told Channel 3 that there's not enough information, and it's too soon after the last tax increase.
- District Eight Commissioner Tim Boyd -- NO -- His public commissioner Facebook page states that he's voting no.
- District Nine Commissioner Chester Bankston -- NO -- He told Channel 3 that he plans to vote no at next week's vote.
Stay with the WRCB app for updates to this developing story.