Education

The Jefferson County Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday evening to raise county property taxes to support public schools.

The school board voted to raise county tax rates on real estate and personal property by 1.1 cent on every $100 of property. The result means a homeowner with a $100,000 house would pay 11 dollars more in property tax compared to last year.

That would help JCPS raise an additional $30.8 million to support public education and build new schools, up from the $497 million that would be raised under the previous tax rate. JCPS CFO Cordelia Hardin said the district meanwhile expects to lose about $10 million in SEEK funding from the state during the same time based on the statewide formula for education funding.

Public Comment on Tax Proposal

A public comment period beginning at 5 p.m. garnered three speakers, with two in favor of the proposed tax increase and one opposed.

“If you take a look at what’s going on in our community right now, there’s a lot of burden on people, in a multitude of areas,” Jefferson County resident Lester Gamble said in opposition to the tax increase. Gamble said rising utility costs and city budget cuts are pinching the pocketbooks of many Louisville residents.

Chris Harmer of the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, a coalition of progressive organizations concerned about education, asked school board members to go further to seek “extra-ordinary” revenue beyond the proposed tax increase.

“In the face of continuing struggles with learning gaps between different groups of students, we need more revenue for programs that are proving to narrow those gaps,” Harmer said. “Black brown, and low-income students, who make up more than two-thirds of JCPS students, need more support.”

Pat Murrell, of the Louisville League of Women Voters — a member organization of the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools — said the organization also supports the proposed tax increase.

Tax Increase Will Help Fund JCPS’ Priorities

Board member Chris Brady says JCPS would use any additional revenue raised to fund the school district’s many priorities, including employing additional mental health counselors in schools, developing an internal security team, and improving school facilities.

At the board meeting, JCPS CEO Cordelia Hardin presented a plan for how the additional $30.8 million dollars raised by the tax increase would be spent, including:

  • $22.5 million for instruction;
  • $3.8 million for maintenance of plant;
  • $1.96 million for transportation;
  • $1.76 million for the building fund;
  • $615,000 for the cost of tax collections.

Brady has also noted that one of the district’s rising costs is its required contributions to the Kentucky Retirement Systems. JCPS Chief of Communications Renee Murphy said the district is estimating it will pay about $5.4 million more to the Kentucky Retirement Systems for non-faculty employees this current school year compared to the previous school year. That’s because the Bevin administration has adopted more pessimistic assumptions for the Kentucky  Retirement Systems, which require agencies like JCPS to pay more.

School boards in Kentucky typically review tax rate changes each fall and are entitled to an up to 4% rise in county tax revenue each year under state law. If the county’s property tax revenue does not rise by that amount as the result of a gain in property value alone, the school board can approve a tax increase to make up the difference. Any tax increase that amounts to a greater than 4% rise in revenue would have to go before voters for approval in a recall election.

A JCPS spokesperson has confirmed that the proposed tax increase under consideration will not be subject to a recall election because it is equal to a 4% rise in revenue.

Correction: A previous version of this story stated the expected loss in SEEK funding would be $6 million. It is actually $10.6 million. It also stated that JCPS will have rising costs for teacher pensions. Those costs are going up for non-faculty employees such as cafeteria workers and bus drivers.

Liz Schlemmer is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.