Marion Co. board unanimously approves nickel tax as "plan of last resort" to upgrade school buildings; previous effort drew recall election and rejection

Lebanon Enterprise, April 1, 2016

School board unanimously approves recallable nickel
By Stevie Lowery

It was standing room only at the Marion County Board of Education’s special-called meeting Thursday evening, March 31, when the board unanimously passed the recallable nickel.

“It’s going to cost us $40 million to upgrade our facilities,” Board Member Kaelin Reed said during Thursday’s meeting. “The only way for the foreseeable future that we can do this is by segregating funds with the nickel tax. Is this a plan of last resort? Yes. We are at that point. We are at that point to take a drastic measure.”
Reed then made a promise to the community.

“I will pledge to this community that I will not ask for an additional tax and I won’t support any additional tax during my tenure on this board,” he said. “If we can do the nickel now, we can fix our facilities problems. I will not support another tax raise for the next three years if we can get this done this year.”

Board Chairman Mike Cecil and Board Member DeLane Pinkston followed Reed’s lead and said they would also make the same pledge. However, both Cecil and Pinkston are up for election this year.

“It’s not the politically wise thing for me to do, but I’m going to do it anyway,” Pinkston said.

The board adding a nickel to its tax rate would add 5 cents per $100 in property to the county’s property taxes. The funds generated by the nickel tax can only be used for renovation of facilities and construction. The nickel would increase the district's bonding capacity from $5.5 million to more than $19 million, according to school officials. If the state equalizes, or matches, the revenue generated by the nickel, the district's bonding capacity would climb to more than $26.5 million, which would be more than enough to build two new elementary schools in a year.

The Marion County Board of Education passed the nickel in 2007, but it faced opposition when Randall Lawson, Richie Lee, Wallace Parrott, Robby Shewmaker and Robert Darrell Shewmaker, all of Lebanon, formed a committee to petition to have the nickel put to a vote by the general public. They were successful in their efforts, and more than 50 percent of Marion County voters voted against the recallable nickel during the 2008 General Election. As a result, the nickel was not added to the tax rate for Marion County schools.

Public can petition...

The recallable nickel creates an opportunity for the public to petition the proposed tax increase.
Members of the public who are opposed to the recallable nickel can file a petition with the Marion County Clerk. If enough eligible voters sign the petition, the recallable nickel would be put to a public vote.

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