Former Breathitt County Schools' facilities director helping lead effort to recall district's nickel tax; three years ago he spoke in favor of tax at board meeting

Jackson-Breathitt County Times-Voice, Aug. 2, 2017

Former BCS Facilities Director sees things differently now
About face, About tax
By Jeff Noble

One person’s take on a controversial topic – a school tax – may sound different than it did three years ago.

That person is Darrell Watts, one of those spearheading the effort to have the Breathitt County Board of Education’s approval earlier this summer – of an additional five-cent equivalent tax rate on real and personal property – to be derailed.

Watts, a former Facilities Director for the Breathitt County Schools, along with Zane Watts, Paul Allmond, Reed Wats and Armond Nichols, collectively, the five Breathitt County residents who formed a committee to pursue a petition, deem they now have enough names through their efforts, which would send the often misunderstood “nickel tax” issue to a countywide vote.

During a public hearing and special called meeting on June 29 at LBJ Elementary School, The Breathitt County Board of Education voted unanimously to pass the nickel tax. But Watts since has led the effort – along with others – to derail the tax, which would’ve automatically been established, if not for the petition which would send the matter to a vote.

Watts’ resistance to the proposed tax is contrary to his recommendation of it, while he served as the Breathitt County School’s Facilities Director in 2014.

The Times-Voice made an open records request with the Breathitt County Board of Education, to obtain a recording of a school board meeting in 2014. That request was made this Monday, and was obtained by the Times-Voice this Tuesday.

On that particular recording of a board meeting in August 2014, Watts greatly encouraged the passing of the nickel tax, saying, “I’m not going to protest if you pass a nickel tax …” Watts further laid out the argument for the tax, having firsthand knowledge of the state of the school district’s buildings while serving as facilities director.

A transcript from Watts’ report at that 2014 board meeting reads as follows:

“I think the thing to do right now is to pass the nickel tax, because if we could pass the nickel tax we could do a lot…you could look at building a new school…I would love to see a new school built within the next five years. And a nickel tax just might be able to do that, and really all it’s going to cost me, as a citizen, is gonna’ cost me two large pizzas a year, and then I even get to write that off on my federal tax…property tax is federal deductible. But $50 out of my pocket for $100,000 worth of house value is not much if we could build a brand new high school…grade school…high school…whatever. These kids need a new grade school. Marie Roberts is…the building is pitiful, it really is. There’s no insulation in the building…it’s bad. But I would encourage you to seriously think about that when the tax time comes. I’m not going to protest if you pass a nickel tax…don’t know about a lot of the rest of us in here, but I…if my kids live around here and have children, I would love to see my grandkids go into a modern state of the art technology building…I really would. I think they deserve that. I think our kids in Breathitt County deserve as nice as schools as what they’re building in Magoffin County.”

Times-Voice called Watts around 4:10 p.m. Tuesday, inviting him if he would like to do an interview with the Times-Voice. He declined, adding… “Not really…I don’t want to be interviewed…I’m not much on those interviews.”

Watts then did talk about the petition drive noting… “We’ve got over 700 names (on the petition)…We have to wait and see at the courthouse.”

Despite Watts’ original assessment as stated above, the matter now will most likely rest with the voters of Breathitt County to decide.

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