Education

For the first time in five years, the Jefferson County school board has voted to approve an increase in the property tax rate.

During a regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, the seven-member board voted unanimously in favor of increasing the property tax rate to 72.5 cents per $100 assessed value. For a home that’s worth $100,000, that would be $725 in taxes, or an increase of $21 from the year before. The rate last year was 70.4 cents.

According to the district, the money would be used to pay for more art teachers, new schools, the new Backpack of Success digital program and the new race and equity plan.

The rate hike would generate $20 million in revenue, the district said. Property owners will see the increase in their bills this fall.

Prior to the vote several residents addressed the board, including Robert DeVore, a previous candidate for mayor and a former McCreary County school board member. DeVore asked board members to think about the “ordinary guy.”

“He’s looking at his bill and saying ‘why are you raising my rates,’ he said.

DeVore said the district should come up with a two- to three-year plan and show residents where the money would go.

Resident Theresa Camoriano also spoke against the tax hike. She said the district hasn’t been good stewards of the money that it already has. She criticized funding of the district’s busing plan and said a tax hike would drive residents away.

“I don’t think they should come and ask for more money when they’re not performing well,” she said.

Resident Beverly Derington Moore pleaded with the board to raise the tax. She sees the tax hike as an investment and said that the board has already lost money for not raising taxes in previous years.

“Those untapped taxes can never be made up,” she said.

The passage of the tax hike comes a day after the board voted 4-3 to accept a settlement offer from the state and avoid hearings that could have resulted in state management of the district.

Interim Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis called for state management of JCPS back in April. One of Lewis’ criticisms was that JCPS lacked efficiency and effectiveness in governance and administration. That includes the district not approving a four percent tax rate that would’ve generated $16 million per year, as well as not exploring other sources of revenue.

 

Roxanne Scott covers education for WFPL News.