Neighboring Kings, Mason schools share different post-tax vote moods

Two southern Warren County school districts that share a border were not sharing the same, post-election moods after Tuesday’s votes on school tax issues.

The county’s largest school system saw Mason school officials rejoicing over the first new operating levy approved by voters since 2005.

Voters overwhelmingly approved a $20 million operating tax by a 69 to 31 percent margin, according to unofficial vote tallies from the county’s board of elections.

But nearby, the mood among Kings supporters was decidedly differently and still cautiously hopeful.

Kings officials are hoping the unusual – largely mailed-in ballot election forced by coronavirus sheltering – might still yield a different outcome as remaining votes are counted for the $89.9 million tax bond issue that appears in unofficial vote tallies to have lost by a 51 to 49 percent margin.

“We will wait to see what the certified final results are and regardless of the final result, we will move forward in a positive way and continue to look for innovative ways to help our students and community,” said Dawn Gould, spokeswoman for Kings Schools.

She said the results will be finalized and certified on May 8. She said the uncertified margin of apparent defeat for the tax issue was 227 votes out of 7,797 votes counted.

The nearly same tax bond issue was defeated by voters in November by a margin of 165 votes.

The two adjacent districts share a consistent record of being among the top academic performers among Ohio’s 613 public school systems.

Kings officials, however, have cited the districts growing enrollment and a need for building a new junior high school – as well as expanded and renovated spaces in existing schools – in trying to persuade residents to approve a tax increase.

The facilities plan, had it earned voter-approved tax funding, would have included tearing down the Kings Junior High School.

“If this is certified as a defeat, we will work with our board of education and community on what the next steps will be. Most importantly, we will need to determine the reason it failed,” said Gould.

Dorette Landis, treasurer for Citizens for a Better Warren County – which opposed the Kings bond issue – has her theories about the ballot loss.

Kings, Landis said, “needs to look at a fiscally responsible plan that doesn’t tear down well maintained buildings and to look at adding on to current schools which were all designed to be added onto.”

School officials, she said, also need to “appoint a community-based committee to come up with a new plan.”

Nearby in Mason Schools, officials were happy to have new operating tax monies win voter approval for the first time in 15 years.

“This levy maintains Mason quality and our district’s commitment to personalized learning, inclusive excellence, and safety and mental wellness investments,” said Mason Superintendent Jonathan Cooper. “We also understand that this was a difficult decision for voters — particularly in the middle of a global pandemic. We do not take this sacred trust lightly.”

The two-stage levy will mean the Mason owner of a $100,000 home will see a $165 annual increase in school taxes beginning in January 2021.

Also happy were Edgewood School officials in Butler County, who saw voters approve a rare “substitute” tax levy, which will now lower their overall school tax bill.

The substitute tax levy’s approval means owners of a $100,000 home will see an annual school tax savings of $6.08 per year beginning Jan. 1, 2021.

“Your (vote) will allow us to continue providing a great learning experience to all our kids,” said Edgewood Superintendent Russ Fussnecker.

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