Mason levy passes Amid Covid-19 precautions

Shravani Page | Staff Writer

Ann Vettikkal | Staff Writer

After 15 years, Mason City Schools has passed its next levy — by a margin of nearly 40%.

On April 28th, the election results were finally in, with 13,391 votes cast — 9,292 for the levy and 4,099 against. Mason Superintendent Jonathan Cooper was grateful to send out positive news on election night to district employees. 

“We were blown away by the [margin], because it’s the highest percentage win we’ve ever had in history,” Cooper said. “If we lost on Tuesday night, then I’m delivering a very difficult message and I had that message prepared, just in case. That message included cutting 80 people from our family and losing their jobs during a pandemic. It just would have been devastating.”

The large majority of yes votes was an indicator of current community values, according to Cooper. He said that this levy will maintain the benefits that people move to Mason for. 

“It continues to allow Mason City schools to deliver the quality that our community has come to expect and enjoy,” Cooper said. “When people move to Mason, they refer to it as a destination district. One of the reasons is because of all of the programs and the quality of experience that we’re able to provide. Passing the levy allows that momentum that Mason has to continue.

This victory was won under unique circumstances. After a last-minute exchange between Governor Mike DeWine and The Ohio Supreme Court, the election was postponed from March 17. Cooper said that the new form of mail-in voting Ohioans had to adopt as a result of the postponement was a testament to the strong endorsement of Mason City Schools by its constituents. 

“[Voters] had to do it by mail — there’s actually more steps, so [they] had to be very intentional,” Cooper said. “That’s why it’s such a strong message. It’s easier to just drive somewhere and cast your vote. When you have to actually request it, fill it out, and then put it back in — you’ve taken an extra step so that’s even more resounding support from our community.”

Although the levy is going into action in 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic introduced some unpredictability to the district’s budget. Cooper said that the pandemic may lead to a reduction in the school’s revenue. 

“I was on the phone with legislators talking about the potential cuts across the state,” Cooper said. “When they shut down our economy, there’s a rippling effect. So when people lose their jobs, they fall behind on their payments of their homes and we collect taxes from home values. That’s how we pay for our levies and for our teachers. ”

Due to these uncertainties, the passing of levy is predicted to have an even greater impact than originally anticipated. Cooper said the shutdown of the economy due to the virus could endanger the district’s state funding.

“We get state funding for a small portion of what we get to run our schools from the state,” Cooper said. “Now they’re telling us that they’re cutting their budgets, anywhere from five to 20 percent.”

Despite the setbacks, Cooper is hopeful that this levy is able to push Mason “to continue the momentum” and said that he is encouraged by its success.

“What it says to me is that Mason is a place that values education and learning,” Cooper said. “It sees the value of a school system as a beacon of hope and sees the connection between strong schools and a strong community. When a school is doing well, it attracts people and businesses which makes it a more robust economy. It also drives home values up. Not only is it good for our students and for our future, but it’s also good for our community.”