A ‘yes’ vote on new Monroe school tax lowers bill

Residents in this Butler County city are in for a rare electoral opportunity: Vote “yes” on a new school tax and they can watch their annual school tax bill decrease.

Monroe Schools officials have put a “substitute” operating levy on the Nov. 8 ballot and if it passes it will lower the school tax millage to 7.2-mills by replacing a current 8.2-mill emergency, five-year levy approved in 2012.

That operating levy helped 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.

“This levy is extremely important to being a financially viable school district,” said Monroe Schools Treasurer Holly Cahall.

“We were in fiscal emergency from 2012 through 2014. During that time, we made significant cuts in staffing and programs. It was the major reductions in staffing, along with the passage of the 5-year emergency levy in November, 2012 which enabled us to climb out of (state-designated) fiscal emergency.”

“This levy is only to support operations and it replaces the 5-year emergency levy, which will end in 2017. The stream of revenue it generates today needs to continue to keep us financially viable and able to offer services,” said Cahall.

The city of Monroe, which straddles the Butler and Warren County border next to Interstate 75 has seen explosive commercial and residential growth in recent years and a jump in school enrollment — doubling in the last 15 years to more than 2,700.

If approved by voters, the proposed 7.2-mill 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.

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

To date there is no public, organized opposition to the school levy.

Cahall said from January 2011 through May 2013, the district was forced to borrow in total more than $8.8 million dollars.

“We borrowed from banks and the state’s Solvency Assistance Fund. We borrowed from our own bond fund. That took legal approval from four state agencies, and that loan will be repaid by June, 2017. All the other loans have been repaid. When you look at that picture of how we struggled to operate back then, it is obvious that our stream of revenue was insufficient to educate our students before the passage of the 5-year emergency levy in 2012,” she said.

“We now can offer full day programming at the secondary level, and have improved our teacher to student ratios at the elementary. We offer music, art and physical education and have technology to support instruction. We can offer electives that we couldn’t offer before. Above all, we continue to be fiscally responsible and through the efforts of our board and teachers,” she said.

For more information on the proposed school tax go to: www.yesmonroeschools.com

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