LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The Jefferson County Board of Education unanimously approved a 1.1-cent increase in its local property tax rates Tuesday in hopes of generating $44.4 million more in revenue for the current school year.

The school board set real and personal property tax rates at 73.6 cents per $100 in property value, up from 72.5 cents per $100 last year. The new rate is expected to yield $542.4 million in tax revenue for JCPS and will cost an owner of a $100,000 home $736 in property taxes this year, $11 more than last year.

Of the anticipated revenues, $502.7 million will be budgeted for the district’s General Fund while $39.7 million will be directed toward capital projects and debt payments on bonded projects, according to board materials for Tuesday’s meeting.

The new rate is expected to generate 4% more in revenue, which means it can’t be recalled via petition. 

This is the second year in a row that the JCPS board has voted to raise property tax rates. Prior to that, the district went five years without increasing rates.

JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio noted that not taking the full 4% revenue increase in past years was among the Kentucky Department of Education's many criticisms of the state's largest school district in a far-reaching audit released last year. JCPS and KDE reached a settlement agreement that avoided state management and gave the district until October 2020, when the state will once again audit JCPS, to fix deficiencies.

Local governments can set tax rates that generate 4% more in revenue over the previous year, but rates that yield more than 4% can be recalled by petition and put on the ballot for voters' approval.

"I don't see how there would be any way that I could not recommend" a 4% increase in tax revenue in light of the audit's findings, he told board members Tuesday.

Just three people spoke at Tuesday’s tax hearing, with only one person voicing opposition to the increased rates.

Lester Gamble, a retired educator who previously worked for JCPS, urged the board to consider myriad other rising costs that some Jefferson County residents must pay, such as higher utility bills, on limited incomes.

“To add some more to that is just not something that can be sustained at this time,” he said.

The board should look for other ways to generate additional revenue instead of getting it through higher taxes, Gamble said.

Others who addressed the board expressed their support for raising property taxes. Pat Murrell, president of the Louisville chapter of the League of Women Voters, said her group backs efforts to generate more revenue for local schools.

“Additional funding improves our schools, and improved schools mean a better community,” Murrell said.

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