Tax funds at stake: Election delay hits 3 area school districts hard

By now, officials in Warren County’s Mason and Kings school systems and in Butler County’s Edgewood district were planning on knowing the outcome of crucial school tax and bond issue votes from the March 17 election.

But the state’s orders to postpone election day, made out of concerns for attracting crowds of voters who could spread further the COVID-19 virus, has left officials at the three districts in limbo.

At stake was millions of dollars of anticipated local tax revenue – if voters had approved the school tax hikes.

“We were counting on our voters’ decision in order to make plans for the next school year,” said Tracey Carson, spokeswoman for Mason Schools.

Mason was asking voters to decide on a $20 million operating levy. The district last won voter approval of an operating levy in 2005 and saw a proposed levy defeated in 2010.

Explore MORE: Mason voters to decide on first school ballot operating tax since 2010

“We have $8.5 million worth of reductions that touch every important area of our district that needed to be made this summer if the levy didn’t pass,” said Carson.

Carson and officials at the other two districts said they understand the reasoning behind postponing all state elections until June 2.

“We understand the need for flexibility and we would hope that once the crisis is over our state and federal government partners would extend that same flexibility to so many of the impacted governments, businesses, and organizations who are facing unprecedented circumstances,” she said.

Kings Schools officials were trying for a second consecutive election to win voter approval for a $89.9 million bond issuet to build a new junior high school and renovate other learning spaces throughout the district’s buildings.

Explore MORE: Kings school tax supporters and opposition clash over coming vote

The district’s enrollment continues to grow to historic highs, and Kings officials are concerned.

“Postponing the election pushes back the date of accommodating our growing student population if the bond issue were to pass,” said Dawn Gould, spokeswoman for Kings.

In Edgewood Schools, voters’ “yes” vote on a proposed $2.7 million substitute tax levy would have lowered their school property taxes if the issue had won at the polls.

Explore MORE: Proposed Edgewood school tax rare chance for voters to say ‘yes’ on new tax and get a cut in tax rates

Like other Ohio school districts with tax ballot issues, it’s a wait and see approach for now.

“At this time, we are waiting to understand the changes this delay will have from the board of elections and the state legislation,” said Pam Pratt, spokeswoman for Edgewood.

“Our levy will remain on the ballot when voters are able to go to the polls to vote. We are waiting for confirmation that the election will take place on June 2, as proposed by Governor DeWine and the Ohio Secretary of State, Frank LaRose.”

Mason Schools Superintendent Jonathan Cooper posted on social media after the state’s postponement announcement a plea to state officials.

“We are all for safety. Please reach out to local districts that have been planning for 10 years to place a thoughtful operating levy on (the) ballot. It is not physically possible for us to wait until June to make local decisions for schools,” wrote Cooper.

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