Opponents of a 9% property tax increase passed by the Jefferson County Board of Education (JCBE) say the entire increase is invalid.

Opponents who were already fighting a portion of the tax increase through a petition for a recall vote now claim the whole increase is illegal based on a technicality. Attorneys for the petitioners say the board violated a state statute they argue requires school boards to wait until the county tax roll has been certified, which happened on Aug. 25. The board passed the increase months earlier, on May 21.

“JCBE’s failure to comply with these statutory requirements renders its attempted levy unlawful and a nullity. As such, JCBE has not levied a tax rate; there is no tax rate subject to recall,” the complaint reads.

Attorneys for the JCBE argue that the law the petitioners are citing, does not apply to local school boards. They say following the petitioners’ interpretation of the statute, a referendum vote on the 2020 tax increase could not take place until the next scheduled election in 2022, or in a special election in 2021.

“JCBE cannot reasonably be expected to delay its much-needed revenue by over two and a half years. Such a rule would create an unworkable logjam to the detriment of public
education in Jefferson County and throughout the Commonwealth,” the JCBE’s response reads.

Judge Brian Edwards heard arguments Friday morning. He said he expects to issue a ruling next week.

A ruling in favor of the petitioners would make the JCBE’s challenge against the validity of recall petition a moot point. If the judge rules in favor of the board, the petitioners could appeal.

Either way the tax increase will appear on the ballot in Nov. because ballots have already been printed and sent out to voters. The judge’s decision will determine whether votes on the question will count.

Jess Clark is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.