NO SWEAT...No protest to school tax hike

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By Thomas Barr

 SHEPHERDSVILLE - Denise Smith had her presentation prepared for Monday evening’s tax hearing for the Bullitt County Public School System.

But Smith didn’t have to worry about any naysayers or opposition. It turned out that her presentation was made to the choir of educators who voiced no opposition to the proposal rate hike.

The Bullitt County Public School Board unanimously voted to approve the proposed rate hike on real and personal property. The rate would increase from 57.6 cents per $100 of assessed property to 59.6 cents.

On a $100,000 home, the annual school tax would go from $576 to $596. It represents the allowable 4 percent increase in revenue.

The increase would generate another $1.2 million for the district.

Smith, the district finance director, had plenty of facts and figures on why the money was needed, including evidence that state funding for the schools was decreasing.

For example, the district had over $2.3 million in transportation costs which were not reimbursed by the state. And since 2008, the state has not funded textbooks for elementary and middle school, a cost of $1 million for the district.

The state no longer pays for the mandated Infinite Campus program, another $313,000 expense for the district, nor the MUNIS accounting system, a mere $36,000 annual expense.

And while the importance of professional development has been stressed, the state funding has gone from $254,000 down to $50,000, to be divided among the 23 schools.

With her facts prepared to any taxpayer battle, Smith said the per pupil revenue in Bullitt is $8,801, which ranks 167th in the state. By comparison, Nelson County has $9,586 to spend on its students and Shelby County is 41st in the state at $11,359. Jefferson County is 10th with $12,952.

“That should enrage parents,” superintendent Keith Davis said of the spending differences. “It’s not fair.”

He remains amazed that the state continues to say that education hasn’t been cut. He recommended parents complain to their legislators throughout the state.

His recommendation would be for the state to set a tax rate and fund all districts equally.

The proposed tax rate would still keep Bullitt below surrounding and comparable districts, with the exception of Hardin County, which receives some funding due to Fort Knox being in the community.

Nelson County has a rate of 67 cents, while Oldham is at 68.9 cents and Shelby is tops at 71.5 cents. Jefferson County adopted a rate of 70 cents.

In Bullitt County, over 15 cents of its tax rate is restricted for construction uses. If the district found it no longer needed the construction funds, the triple nickel money could not be simply transferred over to the general fund.

With no one in attendance to dispute the tax increase, the decision for school board members may have been a little easier.

Board member Sammy Allen’s proposal to accept a 2 percent increase rather than the 4 percent died without a second.

The motion to approve the proposed rates passed unanimously. (Board member Gary Wooldridge was not in attendance.)

Board member Tim Wiseheart answered a question with a question.

He asked if there was ever a good time to increase taxes and answered with another question. “Is there ever a good time to cut education?”

Board member Dolores Ashby said that looking at the funding numbers and realizing how important a job the district has in molding young lives, the answer was clear.

“I don’t see how we can not” pass the increase, which averages out to 38 cents a week.

Board chairman Lorraine McLaughlin said that it is easy to see where the money is being spent. She said the children will benefit from the increased funding.

In the long run, she said the entire county benefits as it needs an educated community of workers to continue to improve.

“It’s the right thing to do,” said McLaughlin.