Should JCPS continue to 'exit' students from its magnet schools?

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Jefferson County Board of Education unanimously approved lowering the property tax rate for the 2017-18 year on Tuesday night.

The tax rate will decrease from 70.8 cents per per $100 of assessed value to 70.4 cents, meaning the owner of a $100,000 home would pay about $704 in property taxes to JCPS, about four dollars less than last year.

Acting JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio said the district must lower the rate or it would exceed the four percent revenue growth allowed by Kentucky law.

This is the second year in a row where the JCPS school board will be asked to lower its tax rate, due to higher property assessments that have generated additional revenue for JCPS. This year, Jefferson County property assessments increased by 5.7 percent, officials say.

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.

Chris Harmer, a community member representing the local chapter of Fellowship of Reconciliation, was the only person to address the school board about the tax rate. He brought up concerns over lack of funding to help the district reduce its achievement gap. 

"Less than three years ago, the Kentucky Department of Education studied the adequacy of district budgets," Harmer said, adding that its findings were that "JCPS budgeting and revenues were estimated to be $191 million/year short of what is needed, based on comparable districts nationwide."

"We think lowering the rate is the wrong direction," he said. "It sends a signal to the community that academics are generally going along fine at JCPS, something that low-income parents and parents of students of color know is not right."

The new tax rates are expected to generate $487 million for JCPS. Of that amount, $55 million will come from new and personal property taxes.

The district's overall budget for 2017-18 is $1.5 billion, which includes a general fund of $1.2 billion. Overall, approximately $800 million of the general fund -- or approximately 70 percent -- of the district's budget goes directly to schools.

Reporter Antoinette Konz can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

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