LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Jefferson County Board of Education will commit millions of dollars in expected new revenue from a disputed 7-cent property tax rate increase to updated facilities, more resources for high-need schools, racial equity initiatives and more instructional time for students.
Under a resolution passed Thursday, the board intends to divide the $54 million it anticipates in new base annual revenue from the property tax rate increase if approved by voters into those four categories for the 2021-22 school year: at least $15 million for new and renovated facilities, $15 million for schools with the highest needs, $12 million for racial equity work and $12 million for more learning time for students.
The board voted 5-0 with board member Linda Duncan, who represents District 5 and voted against the initial property tax rate increase, abstaining. Board member Chris Brady, who represents District 7 and also voted against raising the district’s tax rate in May, was absent.
Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Marty Pollio said the spending strategy, called the Future State of JCPS, will be “the difference maker” in helping Kentucky’s largest school district improve academic outcomes for students and bridge the achievement gap between Black and white students.
“I do believe that our community can rise to the level of this challenge by supporting this resolution that the board is putting forward, that we do what is right for our kids and therefore look back on this moment one day as a time when we did what was right and change the future of education and JCPS,” said board member Joe Marshall, who represents District 4.
Voters will decide whether JCPS will be able to levy a property tax rate of 80.6 cents per $100 of assessed property value instead of the current rate of 73.6 cents per $100 of property value after Jefferson County Clerk Bobbie Holsclaw’s office certified a petition challenging the rate increase.
The petitioners submitted 40,320 signatures in hopes of placing the 7-cent property tax rate increase on the Nov. 3 ballot, of which 38,507 were ultimately approved. They needed more than 35,000 signatures to put the matter before voters.
However, the board and the Jefferson County Teachers Association have challenged Holsclaw’s certification and contend that thousands of signatures were approved that should have been rejected because they were either duplicates, contained inaccurate or incomplete information, or appear to have been copied and pasted into an online petition.
Jefferson Circuit Judge Brian Edwards scheduled a hearing for Monday on the petitioners’ motion for summary judgment in their favor.
Both proponents and opponents have established 501(c)(4) nonprofits to bolster support ahead of the Nov. 3 election. The question of whether JCPS can increase its property tax rate by 7 cents will be put before voters regardless of the outcome of the court case.
Opponents formed The Ville KY to solicit donations to help make its case against the proposed tax increase.
Theresa Camoriano, a point person for The Ville KY and the petition group No JCPS Tax Hike, has said the district needs to focus on improving outcomes with its current tax receipts. She’s also criticized the board’s decision to raise property taxes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Taxpayers are not getting their money’s worth out of JCPS,” Camoriano told WDRB News.
“It’s not just a matter of money,” she said of the proposed property tax rate increase. “It’s a matter of policy and leadership and how you use that money to make the best productive use out of it, and they've not been doing the things they need to do to get the results they need to get.”
The group backing the tax rate increase, Yes4JCPS, will pick up the tab for the district’s contract with Danville-based consulting firm Osborne & Associates, which will cost up to $575,000, and gained a key supporter in Greater Louisville Inc., the local chamber of commerce.
Jim Lancaster, CEO of Lantech and a member of Yes4JCPS, praised the board’s resolution in a statement. He tied Thursday’s news that Papa John’s will be relocating its corporate headquarters from Louisville to Atlanta into his support for more spending for JCPS, saying Atlanta offers more skilled workers than can be found here.
“There is no question that Louisville should be investing more in education,” he said. “But the investment we are making must come with accountability about how that money will be spent.”
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