Several Maysville business owners were invited to a discussion on the need for a second nickel and tour the Area Technology Center on Monday.

During the lunch, Mason County Schools Superintendent Rick Ross told the business owners that a nickel tax is imperative for the school district to be able to renovate existing buildings within the district.

"We're on an island," he said. "Every school district around us, except Augusta, has a second nickel. Without the additional revenue from the nickel, we can not bond the money we need to make renovations to our buildings. And, without that nickel, the state will not match funding for us, which means all of that revenue is going to other districts."

According to Ross, the full amount of the nickel equals 5.6 cents per $100 of assessed property value. However, only 1.6 cents of that is recallable, which means even if the nickel tax vote fails on March 20, taxes will still increase by 4 cents.

"Only 1.6 cents is recallable. So, we're fighting over $16 here," he said. "If the vote fails, the taxes will still increase. However, that 4 cents is not restricted like the 5.6 cents would be, which means the state will not match our funding, we can not bond the money and we will not be able to renovate our buildings."

Ross said the money from the 5.6 cents can only be used for buildings.

"It's restricted," he said. "The (Kentucky Department of Education) watches every cent of that money closely. It can't be used for anything other than the buildings. It can't be mismanaged."

If the nickel tax vote passes, the amount that can be raised, between the additional revenue, bonding and the state match, would equal about $21 million.

That money would be used for new HVAC systems in the buildings, roof repairs, floor repairs, new lighting, safety upgrades and other repairs to existing buildings.

"School safety is quickly rising to the top of our priority list," Ross said. "We have plans to make our schools safer, and we can make some of it happen, but without this money, there is a lot we still can't do."

Ross said one of his goals is to upgrade the ATC building, where students can learn machinery, welding and earn certifications.

"This building was built in 1967," he said. "It hasn't been touched. And, the students are working on machines from the 1940s. We'd like to eventually open this to the public, so we can bring people in and train them for jobs, but that's not possible right now."

Ross said some of the other issues with the building includes the lighting, plumbing, entrances and unreliable heating and air units.

"If it's warm, they have to open the bay doors to circulate air and that means a safety risk for the students," he said. "Example: the other day, the doors were open and a man came in off the street. Thankfully, there were not students in here and he confronted staff, but if we have students in here and something like that happens -- it's a safety issue."

Ross said he has been asked was if the district would use the money to build a turf football field.

"That's not true," he said. "Of course, we would love to have one, because why do our students not deserve one when other schools have them? But, we don't have the money for that. This money is going to go to making our buildings safer."

Ross said he has also been asked why the district built the STEAM Academy.

"The KDE determined the high school was overcrowded," he said. "Something had to be done. We built the STEAM Academy, which offers classes for over 300 kids. It took care of the problem and offered more opportunities to our kids."

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According to Ross, the STEAM Academy cost $3.5 million to build and was cheaper than adding rooms to the high school.

Ross also said the reason the board decided to hold a special election was due to the possibility of losing the additional match from the state.

"I can't guarantee it, but I'm almost certain this will be the last time the state will match funding," he said. "They're trying to make cuts and if we had waited until November, we risked missing out on $3.9 million. People have also asked about saving money. If we saved $500,000 a year, it would still take us 40 years to save the $20 million we need."

Following the meeting, business owners were invited to tour the building to see the problems.

Public meetings are also scheduled for March 13 at Mason County High School at 6 p.m., Straub Elementary School on March 15 at 5 p.m. and the Mason County Area Technology Center on March 19 at 6 p.m.

During the meetings, the public has the opportunity to hear the need for the nickel tax, see photographs of each of the buildings and tour the facilities.

"Voters are urged to attend one or more of these sessions to get the true facts about the need for the levy," Ross said. "After attending, you will see the district has done a great deal in the last four years to repair and maintain the buildings. You will learn about the difficult decisions already made which has placed the district on solid financial footing while still innovating and providing much-expanded student opportunity."

The vote on the second nickel tax will be held March 20.


Christy Howell-Hoots is a reporter for The Ledger Independent newspaper, covering Bracken County

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