LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The petition committee challenging the Jefferson County Board of Education's 7-cent property tax rate increase has appealed a lower court decision that invalidated the recall effort.
The "No JCPS Tax Hike" petition committee filed a notice of appeal Monday, days after one of the group's leaders asked supporters for donations after their original law firm, Stoll Keenan Ogden, said it would no longer provide free representation.
Theresa Camoriano said in an email to supporters Thursday, which set a $30,000 fundraising goal for the appeal, that attorneys for Stoll Keenan Ogden had donated $100,000 of their time.
Jefferson Circuit Judge Brian Edwards sided with the Jefferson County Board of Education and Jefferson County Teachers Association in his Oct. 30 ruling that thousands of signatures on the petition should not have been certified by Jefferson County Clerk Bobbie Holsclaw's office.
Holsclaw's office "erred in certifying a petition that materially failed to comply" with state law, he said in the order.
The decision ultimately invalidated the petition, which needed 35,517 signatures to place the matter before voters.
Edwards determined that the petition should have fallen 2,246 signatures short of that threshold. Holsclaw's office certified 38,507 signatures, but Edwards agreed with a JCTA analysis of the petition that found more than 2,000 signatures contained errors, 843 were duplicates, 934 were altered and 123 came from people who did not live in the Jefferson County Public Schools taxing district.
While voters could still vote on the 7-cent property tax rate increase on Nov. 3, the results were not counted. In fact, the tax question's inclusion on ballots prompted a delay in tabulating election results in Jefferson County.
"We are hopeful that the truth and the law still matter, and that we will win on appeal," Camoriano wrote in the Thursday message.
"No JCPS Tax Hike," which intervened in the school board's challenge of the recall petition's certification, is now represented by Shelbyville attorney Patrick Graney, court records show. The case now moves to the Kentucky Court of Appeals for review.
Graney said the petition committee is "confident in its appeal and looks forward to preparing its arguments and briefs" in the appellate court, which must consider "novel questions" regarding matters like when taxing districts can set rates and the validity and certification of recall petitions.
"The court's ruling denied the taxpayers and voters of Jefferson County the ability to recall a tax hike that we believe was implemented in violation of Kentucky law," Graney said in a statement Tuesday.
Renee Murphy, communications director for Jefferson County Public Schools, said the district believed Edwards "issued a strong and well reasoned order" that will withstand the appeal.
"We're very optimistic about it being upheld if there is in fact an appeal," JCTA President Brent McKim said, adding that Edwards rendered an "extremely clear" ruling.
The school board passed the 7-cent rate increase, which is estimated to generate 9.5% more in property tax revenue, on a 5-2 vote May 21.
The district expects to collect $54 million more in property tax receipts, and the school board has already earmarked that new revenue.
Under a Sept. 17 resolution backed by JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio, the board wants to spend $15 million on more resources to high-need schools, $15 million on facility upgrades, $12 million on racial equity work and $12 million on more learning opportunities for students.
Copyright 2020 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.