JCPS considering seventh-straight property tax hike - WDRB 41 Louisville News

JCPS considering seventh-straight property tax hike

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Superintendent Donna Hargens listens to proposals at last month's meeting. Superintendent Donna Hargens listens to proposals at last month's meeting.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Jefferson County Public Schools is considering raising property taxes nearly 3 percent later this month to gain an extra $15.3 million, in part to help offset state-mandated pay raises.

According to a legal advertisement that will run in Friday's Courier-Journal, the district is proposing up to a 2.8 percent increase in the property tax rate – from the current rate of 71 cents - per $100 of assessed value - to 73 cents. Under that rate, the owner of a house assessed at $100,000 would owe $730, $20 more than last year.

The district is also advertising two alternative options: raising the rate to only 72 cents, which is a $10 increase for every $100,000 of assessed home value; or keeping the rate unchanged.

If the school board approves a tax increase at its meeting on Aug. 25, it would be the seventh straight year the district has raised property taxes.

Superintendent Donna Hargens has been meeting with chief financial officer Cordelia Hardin to go over the district's $1.3 billion budget and come up with a recommendation “on whether taxes need to go up or stay the same,” said Helene Kramer, a spokeswoman for JCPS.

“I can't tell you what the rationale would be for a tax increase because Dr. Hargens doesn't yet know what her recommendation will be,” Kramer said. “They are continuing to review every line item of the budget and will then formulate a plan to present to the school board.”

The Jefferson County Board of Education will hold a hearing at 6:45 p.m. on Aug. 25 to hear public comments about all three options. The meeting will be at the Van Hoose Education Center, 3332 Newburg Road.

“We want to give the public the opportunity to provide us feedback on whether they think the tax rate should stay the same, increase one penny or increase two pennies,” she said.

School board member Debbie Wesslund told WDRB News that she is willing to consider a tax increase as long as it is necessary.

"We have to provide the funding that is needed for our schools," she said. "It's not an easy decision to make. We've always been careful to ensure that we have a balanced budget and don't get involved in deficit spending." 

Property owners in Jefferson County have seen their school tax rates steadily climb over the last decade.

Last year, board members David Jones Jr. and Chris Brady voted against Hargens' recommendation to raise taxes 3.1 percent. Jones suggested a 1.4 percent hike instead and that is what was passed by the board. 

Jones told WDRB News on Wednesday that he wants to know why an increase is needed before he would vote to support it. 

In 2004-05, the owner of a $100,000 home would have paid the school district $592 in property taxes -- $124 less than what the current rate yields. That equates to a 21 percent increase over the past 10 years.

If a tax increase is passed, property owners will notice it when they get their bills in November.

With a rate increase to 73 cents, the district would bring in $434 million in property taxes.

Aside from property taxes, JCPS gets about $26 million in motor vehicle taxes each year, as well as $134 million in occupational taxes deducted from the paychecks of workers in Jefferson County.

The state has increased per-pupil spending this year from $3,827 to $3,911, so the district is getting more money to spend per student.

However, the state also mandated pay raises for employees. In Jefferson County, officials have to come up with $6.2 million to cover the 1 percent raise and $10.4 million to cover the mandated increase in step raises.

Approximately two-thirds of the budget goes to fund the district's 155 schools, with the rest funding facilities/transportation, administrative instructional support, administrative operations and other systemwide costs.

Under state law, a taxing district can adjust its rate annually, but the new rate cannot result in its revenue increasing by more than 4 percent. Any increase exceeding 4 percent requires a petition that puts the increase up for a referendum.

Reporter Antoinette Konz can be reached at 585-0839 or @tkonz on Twitter. 

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