Only one turns out to city schools tax hearing

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UPDATE: Board approves 4 percent revenue increase. Click HERE to read more on the decision.

Mirroring last year’s public hearing, Monday’s meeting to discuss the Bardstown City Schools’ tax rate for 2018 saw only one community member address the board.

Pat Murray Boone, a retired teacher who still substitutes, returned for another year to make a statement about the possible 4 percent increase in tax revenue the board was considering. Boone acknowledged that accessible, high-quality education and workforce opportunities are necessary, but asked the board to show consideration and respect for Bardstown’s families.

“Many of our families are on a fixed income. They do not get a 4 percent increase,” Boone said. “I consider this increase in tax revenue a complete inconsideration of our hard-working families who are struggling to make ends meet; rearing their families, paying their bills and keeping food on the table.”

If adopted, a 4 percent increase in tax revenue would bump rates for real and personal property from 81.4 cents to 83.7 cents per $100 value, which would increase annual tax bills by $23 per $100,000 in property valuation, according to district officials. This rate includes one-tenth of a cent added to recover prior year losses because of exoneration. Motor vehicles would remain unchanged at 53.1 cents. Levying a 4 percent increase would result in an annual tax bill of $837 per $100,000 of assessed value on a home.

Prior to opening the floor for public comment, Superintendent Ryan Clark gave an overview of why the board was considering adopting a 4 percent increase in tax revenue again this year. The board has adopted the 4 percent for several years, with the exception of taking a 3 percent increase in 2016.

During the brief presentation, Clark cited a lower contribution of state funding and an increase in fuel costs, operations costs, maintenance supplies and services, and property insurance in the last three years as reasons for the district pursuing additional revenue. He also cited an increase in retirement contribution, a step increase in staff pay, spending on special needs services for students, looking into improving technology access, school safety efforts and future facility improvement.

“We know that education has the opportunity to be the greatest equalizer of people’s lives,” Clark said. “When we invest in education, we know we are providing awesome opportunities for students in a grand way, making sure that we are preparing them for the next step.”

After Boone had the opportunity to speak, board member Andy Stone asked for the floor.

“I’d like to echo Ms. Boone’s sentiments as well as some other people that have written in to us also expressing the desire to keep the tax rate down because of fixed income,” Stone said. He referenced Boone’s comment about the board approving a 4 percent increase most years.

“It’s because we are aggressive about it that we’ve been able to invest in our staff and our infrastructure and we’ve reached great goals and great gains in our district,” he said. But Stone suggested the board approve a 2 percent increase in revenue, rather than a 4 percent. Taking the 2 percent increase in revenue would make the new rate 82.1 cents per $100 value.

Board member Jim Roby said he would have a hard time accepting a 2 percent, but he would be open to taking a 3 percent.

Roby said he understood concerns about fixed income, but said the district has a duty to see that children are provided with the best education possible.

“And that takes money, unfortunately,” he said, later adding, “We’ve got to continue to take steps to make sure that we have the necessary funds to run a school and have a contingency fund and look to the future,” noting overcrowding at some district facilities.

Board members Franklin Hibbs and Kathy Reed were both in favor of the 4 percent, agreeing that the district needed to do what it could to support students.

Before adjourning, Board Chair Jennifer Shrewsbury, who did not wish to share her opinion during the hearing, asked the board members if they had heard other concerns from the public about the tax rate. Aside from Boone’s comment and the written correspondence Stone referenced, they had not. Few had contacted the board about the rates last year, as well, but following its final approval in 2017, several community members complained about the rate increase on social media. Comments about the rates being too high were also made on social media after Monday’s hearing.

The board anticipated approval of a tax rate to be made at its noon board meeting Tuesday, which occurred after press time for the print version of this article.