JCPS WIDE

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Supporters and opponents of a proposed property tax rate increase will be able to share their thoughts with the Jefferson County Board of Education during its Thursday tax hearing by adhering to strict social distancing guidelines.

Those wanting to address the board will be allowed inside VanHoose Education Center one at a time during the 5:30 p.m. tax hearing to voice their support or opposition through video conferencing, according to Jefferson County Public Schools Communications Director Renee Murphy.

The Jefferson County Board of Education, like other boards and commissions throughout Kentucky, have been meeting virtually since the COVID-19 pandemic began under guidance issued by Gov. Andy Beshear.

Thursday will mark the first time public comments have been heard during a JCPS school board meeting since it began meeting remotely. Prior to that, people had been asked to submit written comments of up to 500 words before regular meetings that were distributed to the board and later recorded in official minutes.

JCPS has advertised increasing the property tax rate by up to 8 cents per $100 of assessed value, which would tack an extra $80 onto the tax bills for those who own homes worth $100,000 if the school board pursues the full rate increase.

Additional health and safety guidance on public participation in Thursday's tax hearing will be detailed in the meeting notice released Monday or Tuesday, Murphy said.

Most board members have voiced support for upping the property tax rate beyond the point of generating 4 percent revenue growth, which school boards can do under law without triggering a possible recall petition.

Upping the property tax rate by 8 cents could generate about 12 percent more revenue based on the current budget and a projection of $58.9 million in new property tax revenue with such an increase.

Board members who support a higher tax rate say the additional revenue will allow JCPS to spend more in classrooms while also increasing the district's bonding capacity for construction projects if some of the extra money is earmarked for facility improvements. JCPS faces more than $1 billion in unmet facility needs.

They've also said the district's tax rate of 73.6 cents per $100 of assessed property value trails other Kentucky school systems, including Fayette County Public Schools and Anchorage Independent.

JCPS has the 46th highest property tax rate among school districts throughout the state, according to data maintained by the Kentucky Department of Education.

But some have balked at the prospect of paying higher property taxes in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Theresa Camoriano, president of the Louisville Tea Party, has said a group is formalizing plans to collect signatures for a possible recall vote once a new tax rate is set. She called the pandemic the "worst time to raise anybody's taxes."

A website domain, NoJCPSTaxHike.com, has already been secured to help the group's efforts to electronically collect the 35,615 signatures needed over a 50-day period to put an increased tax rate before local voters in the fall elections, Camoriano said. The signatures must be collected from registered voters who live in the affected area.

JCPS has also begun laying the groundwork to boost community support for a property tax rate increase.

The district signed a contract worth up to $575,000 with Danville-based consulting firm Osborne & Associates to handle public relations for its pursuit of higher taxes.

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