Monroe School may put levy on November ballot

Taxpayers in Monroe will be asked to approve a new school levy in the fall and may also be asked in the next few years to pay for a new school building for the fast-growing Monroe Schools.

The new proposed Monroe school tax of 7.2-mills would replace a current 8.2-mill emergency, five-year levy approved in 2012 to help the Butler County district get out of state-ordered financial emergency.

The state released Monroe from its financial control in 2014 once the school system returned to solvency.

Monroe school officials say one of the selling points of the new proposed tax — a 7.2-mill substitute levy — would be a reduction in homeowners’ school tax bill should voters approve the levy in November.

Monroe Superintendent Phil Cagwin said “the decision for a substitute levy was twofold: It would retain the 12.5 percent homestead and rollback tax reduction enjoyed by many of our (retired) voters; and it will tax new construction (in the city) at the original 8.2-mills of the levy.”

The city of Monroe, which straddles the Butler and Warren County border next to Interstate 75 has seen explosive commercial growth in recent years.

“As the (business) tax base grows and the property taxes decline for individuals, the school will continue to get the same mills from new (business) construction,” said Cagwin.

If approved by voters, the proposed 7.2-mill continuing substitute tax would lower the annual school tax cost for the owner of a $100,000 home from the current $251 to a yearly cost of $220.

Monroe’s school board will vote later this year to put the 7.2-mill, continuing, substitute levy, which will have no expiration date, on the Nov. 8 ballot.

“We believe that passing this levy, which will be a continuing levy, will provide the resources to offer a comprehensive K-12 educational program in Monroe and protect the financial integrity of the district’s operations for many years,” said Monroe Schools Treasurer Holly Cahall.

The proposed tax would generate $2.2 million of the district’s annual operating budget of $24 million, said Cahall.

If voters approve the new tax in the fall, district officials then plan to propose a property tax increase in the form of a bond tax issue — of yet-to-be-determined amount — for a vote sometime between 2017 and 2020, said Cagwin.

The district’s enrollment has doubled in the last 15 years to 2,700 students and continues to grow.

Classrooms are crowded, Cagwin said, and the district will need either a new elementary or junior high.

One possible site for a new school, said Cagwin, would be where the former Lemon Monroe High School and football stadium now stand near Monroe Primary School's campus between Macready and Leeprice avenues.

Demolition crews are now abating asbestos from the long-abandoned school and will soon begin tearing down the structure and the stadium stands. Work should be done by July and the remaining field of 30 acres will be seeded with grass, said Cagwin.

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