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Preschool Tax Proposal Could Be Coming Soon

Tana Weingartner

Within a few weeks, the group working on a plan to provide voluntary, universal preschool in the region could have a plan for a tax levy to go on the November ballot.  

But what type of levy and whether it would be run in Hamilton County or just Cincinnati are still being decided.  

Stephanie Byrd with Preschool Promise addressed a city council committee Tuesday on the tax options

"A sales tax which would be a county-wide effort, a property tax which could be county or city, or an earnings tax which would be city," Byrd said.  "We are having a lot of discussions on what makes the most sense, what's most feasible for the community both the general public and the business community."

Byrd said polling shows those questioned support an earnings tax increase, while there was less support for a property tax levy.  

City Council would have to approve city tax issues or supporters could gather petition signatures to put a measure on the ballot.  Hamilton County Commissioners would likely have to approve any countywide sales tax or property tax proposal.

Byrd said the group is sensitive to taxpayer concerns.

"This is the best way to make sure that we aren't paying for it down the road through increased reliance on public assistance, on incarceration rates and reliance on services that could be avoided if we got them off to a better start educationally," Byrd said.

She also explained why the group is pursuing two years of preschool.

"Local data from Cincinnati Public Schools shows that children who have access to two years of preschool do much better than children who have access to one," Byrd said.  "It's not double, so while the cost may be almost twice as much, the benefits not as great, but for those children who do benefit, it's significant, and the return on that investment is significant as well."  

The group says there are about 7,000 three and four-year-old children eligible for preschool.

Right now there is capacity for only about 80 percent of them.  The quality of that early learning varies depending on the provider.