Meeting touches on need for nickel tax

Several residents gathered at the Mason County Middle School cafeteria Wednesday to hear why district officials are seeking a second nickel.

Superintendent Rick Ross gave a presentation on why the district needs the second nickel and showed pictures of the current condition of district buildings.

According to Ross, the second nickel will allow the district to bring in more revenue that will be used for the maintenance and upkeep of several existing buildings.

Ross said, as it stands, the district can borrow or bond about $5.7 million, but the district facilities plan shows the district needs more than $40 million.

“What we will generate through all of this will not touch what needs to be done,” he said. “What we will generate under the nickel tax will be about $700,000 additionally. That will give us $9.9 million. The state will then give us more money. We have been giving up that extra money every year we don’t have this. It goes to other places in the state. That’s the only way they will help. Then, we will move to $20 million.”

According to Ross, many of the buildings are in dire need of maintenance, including Straub Elementary, Mason County Middle and High schools and the Area Technology Center.

“The ATC building hasn’t been touched since it was built in 1967,” Ross said. “Everything is original. Students are working on machines from the 1940s. How can we expect business to locate here when we’re training our kids on machines that are so old?”

Some of the other issues with the buildings include leaking roofs, caulking that needs to be replaced, HVAC systems and ventilation.

“We’ve had students getting rained on in Straub,” he said. “They’ll be sitting in their lessons and water is dripping into the room.”

One person asked what time priorities were for the school district if the nickel tax should pass.

“Those decisions still need to be made,” Ross said. “But, we need to fix our roofs. We can’t have children sitting in classrooms with the roof leaking on them.”

The same person also said he was concerned because he had heard the district was asking for the nickel tax as well as an additional 4 percent raise.

“That’s not true,” Ross said. “The nickel tax, which equals 5.6 cents is what we’re asking for. Only 1.6 cents of that is recallable, but we’re only asking for the 5.6 cents.”

According to Ross, only 1.6 cents is recallable because the board is allowed to ask for a 4 percent tax increase each year, but has not done so.

“Even if the nickel tax does not pass the vote, your taxes will still increase, just not as much. However, the nickel tax is bondable and the money can only be used for buildings. That is not true of the 4 percent increase. It’s not restricted, so it’s not bondable. If the nickel tax does not pass, we will lose out on the money the state would normally match. So, we’ll be in the same place we are now.”

Ross said almost every district around Mason County has taken the second nickel tax.

He showed pictures of districts which have been able to get money from the state by adding the second nickel.

“Fleming County is spending $20 million on renovations for their high school,” he said. “Floyd County, one of lowest income districts, has been able to update their schools. We need this nickel tax to pass.”

The nickel tax will be on the ballot during a special election on March 20.