Mason school levy on March ballot

Mason school levy on March ballot
FOX19 NOW/file

MASON, Ohio (FOX19) - A levy for Mason schools in Warren County will be on the March 7 ballot.

The Mason City Schools Board of Education on Tuesday officially approved the second and final resolution necessary to put a 9.96-mill phased-in operating levy before voters.

In January 2021, 4.71 mills will go into effect, followed by 5.25 mills in 2022.

School officials say that, due to prior taxes expiring as the high school’s mortgage is paid off, taxes will only increase by 4.71 mills over the current level - costing taxpayers $13.75 per month per $100,000 of appraised property value.

It’s been 15 years since Mason voters passed an operating levy.

“We have very carefully controlled costs, listened to taxpayers about what is most important to them, and gone to great lengths to ensure that this levy would have as little financial impact on our community as possible,” Mason School Board President Matt Steele said in a prepared statement.

“Careful planning and difficult choices have allowed us to maintain excellence without new levy dollars since 2005. But we have reached the point where we cannot maintain the quality that our community and families expect from our high-performing schools without making this very important request to our voters.”

The district’s treasurer, Shawn Bevan, said: “The upcoming debt reduction created a unique opportunity for our residents to protect and maintain the district’s existing programs while paying a fraction of what it would have cost without the debt reduction, and I appreciate the vigilant planning of the Board that created this great value for our local taxpayers.”

If the levy passes, funds will be spent on the day-to-day operation of schools to continue providing the high-quality education our community values and expects.

The levy would generate $20 million when fully-phased in. Currently, the district faces a $13 million deficit in 2022. Passage of the levy will:

  • Maintain current number of teachers, so that students can continue to receive individual attention
  • Preserve mental health intervention programs to identify and support at-risk students
  • Prevent cuts to current courses in AP, college, and workforce preparedness
  • Continue current athletic, arts, clubs, and extracurricular opportunities for students
  • Keep existing, safe, and reliable transportation to and from school
  • Retain current security practices to keep schools safe and secure for students and staff

Without the levy, significant cuts will be necessary, ones they say would compromise the quality of education and the community.

During his recommendation to place a levy on the ballot at a school board meeting last month, Mason Superintendent Jonathan Cooper said the district would need to make more than $6 million in cuts in summer of 2020, which is the equivalent of nearly 80 staff positions if the levy fails.

Cuts the board must consider would include, according to the district:

  • Reducing safety, student support services, and mental wellness personnel & program investments
  • Significant cuts to teaching & staff positions, resulting in increased class sizes and less individualized attention at all grade levels
  • Elimination of various AP, honors, and career course offerings
  • Limiting athletics, arts, clubs, and extra-curriculars with increased participation fees
  • Implementing transportation efficiencies

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