Thursday, December 4, 2003

Mason school board starts steps for 1.8-mill bond issue

By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

MASON - This booming school district may soon be bursting at the seams unless new school buildings are built, Mason school officials say.

The Mason Board of Education agreed Tuesday evening and unanimously approved the first of two steps in putting a 1.8-mill school bond issue on the March 2 ballot.

The school board, which governs the 8,669-student Warren County district that has added about 650 new students during each of the last six years, will conduct a final vote during its Dec. 16 meeting.

Mason is one of many southwest Ohio districts expected to take advantage of Ohio's new presidential primary election in March. Because of the primary, Ohio school districts next year will be limited to placing tax issues before voters only in March, August and November rather than the usual four opportunities (February, May, August and November).

Mason school officials said the proposed 1.8-mill school property tax would be used to purchase $35 million in bonds to build a new pre-school-first grade building at an estimated cost of $26 million, as well adding an additional 228,000 square feet of facilities at the Mason Intermediate School for $9 million.

If voters approve the tax issue, the new school and intermediate school additions would be completed by 2006.

Mason officials stressed that voter approval of the tax issue would not raise their school property tax because the district can offset the new expense by restructuring its debt. (The owner of a $100,000 home is paying $55 a year in school property taxes.)

Mason resident and parent Tom Miller told the board that the key to a successful campaign is stressing that voter approval will not increase their school tax bill.

"The facilities will not be built for free but you need to stress it is a no-tax increase bond issue," Miller said.

District officials said the new "early childhood education center" would be built on 47 acres on school property north of Mason Road.

The district plans the last in a series of public forums about the school bond issue in February. So far, the Mason school forums have elicited participation, either in person or via e-mails, from about 700 residents. Of those, 86 percent agree a new early childhood center is needed, said district officials.

Mason's enrollment is projected to top 11,200 in five years.


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