School board member explains tax hike idea, vote - WDRB 41 Louisville News

School board member explains tax hike idea, vote

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LOUISVILLE, KY (WDRB) -- Jefferson County 0school board member David Jones Jr. says Louisville residents should be "outraged" at state lawmakers who have continually cut or refused to adequately fund education - forcing school districts like JCPS to continually raise property taxes.

Jones' comments to WDRB News came a day after the school board voted 4 to 3 to increase property taxes by a 1.4 percent margin. 

Officials with Jefferson County Public Schools, the state's largest school district, argue the tax revenue is needed to help offset $8.5 million in state and federal budget cuts this year.

"The community in Louisville needs to understand and should be outraged that our representatives in Frankfort and those from other parts of the state who are cutting funding - that causes Louisville taxpayers to have to step up like this," Jones said in an interview with WDRB.

Jones said he voted down a higher three-percent property tax increase so as not to overburden taxpayers during a time when JCPS is trying to improve student achievement. The 1.4 percent tax increase is expected to bring in $8 million.

The district was hoping the larger tax increase would've brought in more than $16 million. As a result, the district will have to dig deeper into the district's $70 million reserve fund, said Ben Jackey, a spokesman for JCPS. (State law requires school district's to maintain a certain balance in reserve funds).

During Monday's school board meeting, 19 people addressed the board - many of whom were angry and vehemently opposed to a tax hike.

"The children are less educated but we need more, more get less, more get less," said Marvin Dever, one of many who spoke out against the tax hike.

Jones said he could not support paying for every expense by dipping into the reserve fund, which is why he proposed the smaller 1.4 percent hike. 

The rate, which was 70 cents per every $100 of assessed property, rose to 71.1 cents per every $100 of real property. So for example, a person owning a $100,000 home would pay $711 - an $11 increase from last year.

"If you keep on doing that (taking money from the reserve fund), you will burn through the reserve immediately and you will have a bigger tax hole than you can fill," Jones said.

Jones says he thought the more fiscally responsible move would be to take a nuance approach - increase the tax slightly while also borrowing more money from the reserve fund this year while the district tests out new programs aimed at reducing the student achievement gap.

One new "extended day" program is meant to help struggling students catch up and improve their academic skills by having them stay late one to three days out of the week. The cost of the program totals $7.5 million and would involve paying teachers to stay late.

Jones said he supports paying for that program through the reserve during its first year and - if successful - funding it in future years.

ANOTHER HIKE POSSIBLE?

Cordelia Hardin, the chief financial officer for the school district, said she expects federal sequestration cuts next year could be as deep as $9 million.

CALL FOR REFORM

Kentucky Education Commissioner Dr. Terry Holliday, who had previously criticized the school district's failing schools as "academic genocide," said Tuesday in an interview with WDRB that he is encouraged by improvements he sees, and said the chances of the state taking over are "low."

He too pointed the finger at the state legislature, arguing there's little political will for drastic tax reform, which he claims would ease the burden on school districts.

"There's no new money and my concern is there not willing to talk about tax reform."

 

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