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Bardstown School Board approves tax increase

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 Those who pay Bardstown City Schools tax will see another increase to their bill this year after the Board of Education voted 3-2 Tuesday afternoon to adopt a 4 percent increase in tax revenue.

The new tax rates will be 86.2 cents per $100 for real estate and personal property with 0.2 cents added to recover prior year losses because of exoneration. Motor vehicles remain unchanged at 53.1 cents.

The rate is not a 4 percent increase in tax, but rather a rate that will generate a 4 percent increase in revenue. The rate change itself is about 3 percent higher.
The decision did not come without a fight from taxpayers.

About a dozen people attended a tax hearing Monday night asking district leaders to cut them some slack on tax rates.

“I’m tired of paying more and more and more, and I just hope you all consider us older people who actually do pay our taxes and give us a break,” Libby Burr of North Third Street pleaded during the hearing, and she wasn’t alone.

Several who showed up to speak in opposition of an increase were older residents living on fixed incomes who expressed concern that, while the tax rates go up, they see no increase in their income to combat the rise.

“This has become a yearly thing, where does it stop?” asked C.R. Royalty, who lives on Buckingham Lane.

Anne Rosalie Ballard, who lives on West Flaget Avenue, asked if there was any year the tax rates had not increased and was told some sort of increase had been taken annually in the last two decades, with most of those decisions being to adopt a rate that would increase revenue by 4 percent.

Nora Simms, a Limestone resident, pointed out the city and county governments did not pursue an increase this year because of growth in the community.

“If the city and county choose not to raise our taxes this year, I am asking the City Schools to do the same,” Simms said.
But Superintendent Ryan Clark said much of that growth assessed this year falls outside of the school district’s boundaries, which differ from the City of Bardstown.

Pat Murray Boone, a retired educator who has spoken against the increase for the last several years, was also in attendance Monday night.

“I am sorry, but I cannot support you raising the proposed general tax rate,” Boone, who lives on Englewood Drive, said. “Our families are struggling to pay their taxes -- Bardstown City School taxes, Bardstown City taxes and Nelson County taxes,” adding BCS taxes are the highest among the group.

John Sanderson, a Madison resident, asked the board to “have some compassion.”

“As you talk about the tax rate, look at the faces of these people. Maybe even go to sleep tonight looking at these (faces) and see what effect you are having upon them,” Sanderson said.

He also mentioned that taxpayers do not know what it is they are actually paying for.

“We might be more willing if we knew where the money was going,” he said.
Monday’s hearing was the most well-attended tax hearing the City Schools district has seen in several years.

“I am absolutely thrilled at the turnout. It’s a breath of fresh air,” said board member Andy Stone, who was among those who voted against the four percent at Tuesday’s meeting.

During Monday’s hearing, Superintendent Clark gave a presentation on district finances, making note of recent increases in utilities, fuel, maintenance, and property insurance, salary increases to stay competitive, and mandated but unfunded retirement contributions and school safety initiatives.

Clark also referenced cuts in state funding, including areas of transportation and early childhood education. A loss of funding from the state, he said, leads the district to seek funding from local sources.

“Our local community does shoulder a huge burden, and I recognize that,” Clark said. “The state is not doing their part and hasn’t been for a very long time.”

Referencing some of Clark’s presentation, longtime board member, Jim Roby, on Monday defended his stance on the proposed rate to ensure quality education.

“I was elected to provide our students with the best money can buy,” Roby said, referencing staff, educational opportunities, and extracurriculars. "We are not throwing money to the wind. We are paying teachers a good salary” and helping students find success after graduation.

Roby said he knows his stance is not a popular one, but he wants to do what is best for the students.

“I feel my first responsibility is to make sure this school is taken care of,” he said.

Stone also wanted to support the district but said today’s leaders must set an example of compromise and balance. Falling in line with his voting pattern in recent years, Stone challenged taking a four percent increase in revenue.

During Tuesday’s meeting, he made a motion to adopt a 2 percent increase in revenue instead but received no support from the board. He then motioned to adopt a 3 percent increase and received a second from board member Jennifer Shrewsbury, but the motion did not pass the vote.

By the end of the meeting, the board had adopted the 4 percent increase in revenue with Stone and Shrewsbury voting against.omment