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County Schools discuss taxes

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District faces loss even with 4 percent revenue increase

 While the Nelson County Board of Education will likely take a 4 percent increase in tax revenue this year, the district still stands to see a loss to the general fund.

At its Sept. 6 working session, the board discussed how taking a 4 percent increase in revenue would raise the tax rate from 76.4 cents to 77.2 cents per $100 assessed value of real property, leading to an estimated $746,695 increase in tax revenue, but an estimated $232,448 decrease overall.

“We really have a unique inverse relationship going where our local property values have increased,” which decreases the funding the district receives from the state, Superintendent Wes Bradley said. The property assessment increase along with a decrease in enrollment means an estimated $1 million less in state funding for 2019.

In comparing rate options, taking a 1 or 2 percent increase in tax revenue would actually lower tax rates this year, but would result in a potential loss of $500,000 to $700,000 in overall general fund revenue. Taking a 3 percent increase in revenue would see a smaller hike in the tax rate, bumping up to 76.5 cents, but would still see a potential loss of nearly $400,000 overall.

In order to keep revenue the same as last year, board member Rebekah McGuire-Dye suggested the district would have to take a more than 5 percent increase in tax revenue, which it could not do without being subject to a recall vote.

In looking at financial trends, Bradley spoke about how the district must align spending priorities by reevaluating district needs and saving money in other areas. Some desires Bradley highlighted include better supports for student leadership, transportation, school safety and repairs, and expanding college and career pathways. The district is already looking “line-by-line” for potential cuts, such as phasing out the use of most paper and printed products.

Board Chair Damon Jackey touched on different initiatives the board has taken on recently, including the implementation of one-to-one technology, reintroducing a school resource officer, and adding nursing staff at schools.

“We’ve started those initiatives and we want to make sure they are sustainable,” Jackey said. But with the district facing a loss in overall revenue, he asked how that would be possible.

“It would be very difficult,” said Chief Financial Officer Amy Owens. “And that is what we’ve been discussing about trying to put more money back in the schools and back to those programs will mean that we are trimming costs in other areas.”

The more the district can do to be better stewards of the funding it receives through the state and the local taxes, she said, the more money it can put back into the classroom for students.  

“Even with the 4 percent, we’re not sustaining exactly what we spent last year. We can’t, because we don’t have the same revenue and we already know we spent more than we got last year,” Owens said. “Even with the 4 percent, we’re still making some cuts, but they’re not on these major programs you guys have just initiated. We’re starting to look at the other areas and what do we need and what do we not need.”

A public hearing to discuss tax rates is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18, with the board’s regularly scheduled meeting to follow at 5 p.m.