Eminence school district tax creates confusion, backlash - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Eminence school district tax creates confusion, backlash

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EMINENCE, Ky. (WDRB) -- It's a tax hike that has caused quite an uproar in this small Henry County school district.

Taxpayers in the Eminence School District showed up to Tuesday's school board meeting upset with a new real estate tax. The new rate is $72 per every $100,000 of real property -- an increase from last year.

But that's not the only issue fueling the anger and frustration of taxpayers here.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that two tax bills were sent out. The first, sent out more than a month ago, did not include the Eminence school district tax. The second bill, sent out just days ago, included only the Eminence tax, which left many people with sticker shock, confused over the two bills.

"My bill is more than $90, that's $100 I don't have. That I wasn't planning on paying," Polly Troxler, a Eminence resident and city council member. "If you don't have the money, maybe (the district) should consolidate."

Juanita Lashley, the Henry County Clerk, claims the second notice was sent out because the Eminence school board did not turn in its rates to the clerk's office before September 15th. Superintendent Buddy Berry disputes that, claiming the board voted for the hike on Aug. 14th.

"I don't think the public was really aware there was going to be a drastic tax increase," said Lashley.

(The discrepancy, Berry admits, could be that 5.9 cents of the 7.2 cents per $100 increase is a facilities fee, which carries with it a 45-day window).

Complicating the issue even more, both Lashley and Berry agree, is that a group that opposed the tax increase petitioned the clerk's office. While more than 100 signatures were gathered, Lashley says she threw out the petition because it failed to state what the signees were petitioning.

A lawsuit has since been filed by members of that group, challenging how the school district notified the public of the proposed tax increase. A circuit judge has not yet ruled on that issue. 

Berry says the tax increase is needed because his school district - which he claims is excelling in academics - is also growing in student population - adding 180 to 200 students in the last two years, according to Berry.

"We need it for lights on the softball field, we need classrooms, we need the facilities and the grounds - we are a 100 year old building," Berry said, referring to why the school district needs the tax increase.

Berry says while student achievement has excelled in recent years, student population has grown. The community of only 2,000 people has 700 students attending the Eminence School, which houses pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

"We really need this to meet our needs," Berry said.

The judge has yet to rule on the lawsuit, but if she rules in favor of those opposed to tax and finds the school district did not properly notify the public, the Eminence school district might have to refund some of that tax money.

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