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Schools to keep current tax rate

Clark County property owners will get a break on their school taxes this year, but the schools will have less money to pay expenses than was budgeted.

Following a public hearing on the tax rate Monday during which school officials heard from no one, the Board of Education, after a long discussion, voted 3-2 to keep the tax rates as they are.

The tax rates will remain at 63.7 cents for real estate and personal property per $100 of assessed value and 53.5 cents per $100 for motor vehicles.

The board also set the utility tax rate at 3 percent.

Last week, the board had discussed a proposal by one of its members, Gordon Parido, to opt for the compensating rate, which would have been the rate at which the school district would have brought in the same amount of revenue as the prior year, but other board members wanted to postpone a decision until they could hear from the public and consider what impact the choice might have on the budget.

Keeping the current rate was a compromise between the compensating rate and the rate that would have brought in 4 percent more revenue than the year before, which is what the school board did last year and has usually done in the last 12 years.

“If we kept the same rate, we would still be increasing our revenue,” Aleisha Ellis, the director of finance for the Clark County School District, told the board. That is because total property values have increased by 3 percent in the past year.

“Although the property values have gone up, what we budgeted on was taking the 4 percent tax rate,” Ellis said.

Based on property tax values of $3.2 billion, tax revenue for 2020-21 is projected to be just over $17 million.

If the board had chosen the 4 percent revenue increase rate of 65.4 cents per $100 on real and personal property, it would have been just over $17.5 million.

Board member William Taulbee pointed out that if the board were to keep the property tax rate the same as this year, the school district would have a budget shortfall despite the 3 percent property value increase.

He also noted that the loss would be compounded over the years.

Chair Ashley Ritchie said she didn’t want to take the compensating rate but might be agreeable to something less than the 4 percent increase.

Member Scott Hisle said that if the board took something less than the 4 percent, it could go back next year and make up for it, although a higher tax rate would be subject to voter recall.

He said he would prefer something between the compensating and 4 percent rates.

Parido, who had suggested consideration of the compensating rate because of the effects the coronavirus pandemic has had on the economy and people’s incomes, and the fact that some expenses would be lower while schools are closed, did not express his opinion during the meeting Monday.

Board member Sherry Richardson made the motion for choosing the current rate, which Hisle seconded.

Richardson said it would be a way for the board to show taxpayers that “we are in this with them, and that we understand” their situation.

“I think it would be a nice gesture for us to keep the rate the same,” she said.

Hisle said he thought it was “probably a fair balance” between continuing the progress the school district has made and acknowledging the “real interests and challenges of our taxpayers.”

Taulbee was concerned that school officials don’t really know what the district’s expenses will be because COVID-19 has brought about so much uncertainty.

“I understand that’s going to be hard, but I think taxpayers have the same situation at home,” Richardson said.

Parido joined Richardson and Hisle in voting to keep the rate the same. Ritchie and Taulbee voted against it.

About Randy Patrick

Randy Patrick is a reporter for Bluegrass Newsmedia, which includes The Jessamine Journal. He may be reached at 859-759-0015 or by email at randy.patrick@bluegrassnewsmedia.com.

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