Campbellsville Ind. board votes to raise tax rate to generate 4 percent more in revenue; superintendent says increase necessary due to less funding from the state

Central Kentucky News Journal, Campbellsville, Aug. 31, 2017

City schools to take tax increase
‘I don’t like paying the higher taxes, but I know what it takes to run the school system.’
By Zac Oakes

The Campbellsville Independent Schools Board of Education voted to raise its tax rate at Monday night’s special-called meeting.

The proposal was to take the state-recommended four-percent increase in revenue, which takes the tax rate from 62.5 to 65.4 cents per $100 in property value.

The increase, which was also recommended by Superintendent Kirby Smith and Finance Director Chris Kidwell, passed by a 3-1 margin. Board Chair Pat Hall, as well as board members Suzanne Wilson and Barkley Taylor voted yes on the motion, while board vice-chair Mitch Overstreet was the lone dissenting vote.

Board member Angie Johnson was not in attendance for Monday night’s meeting. The vote came after nearly 45 minutes of discussion on the matter, in which Kidwell presented information about the tax increase to the board and local citizens in attendance for the meeting.

By taking the recommended increase, CIS will be bringing in an additional $161,395. The increased revenue goes toward instruction, transportation, and maintenance.

This means that a person’s tax bill would go up $29 for $100,000 worth of property.

The 53 independent school districts in the state of Kentucky have an average tax rate of 79.8, according to Kidwell. The CIS tax rate will place it 46/53 when compared to other independent districts.

Kidwell said that comparing Campbellsville to other independent school districts is a good idea since independent school districts have less room for growth. He said many other school districts, especially independent ones, are also seeing their tax rates increase.

Three local citizens attended the meeting to voice their opposition to the tax increase. Willard Smith, Sue Smith, and Dr. Harold Wilkerson spoke at the meeting, stating they were not there to criticize the board, but were representing many elderly citizens in the community who felt they were not having their voices heard.

“We think that you all are doing a good job,” Willard Smith said. “We aren’t here to fuss at you or anything. We are just here to represent members of the community.”

They spoke about how the tax rate continues to increase each year, which has raised concern among many members of the community. The citizens asked if it would be possible to delay increasing the tax for a year.

Those who are over 65 years old can file a homestead exemption to have their tax rate lowered with the county PVA, Kidwell told the citizens.

Willard Smith also mentioned the possibility of new city taxes coming in due to the city of Campbellsville’s growth, and said many citizens he had talked to are afraid of being confronted with increases in taxes from the school district and the city.

“I think the things that you all have talked about doing at the schools are great,” Willard Smith said. “But I think you need to wait at least a year… We just think the timing is bad.”

Dr. Harold Wilkerson, a local dentist, said he hears from many of his patients that the increase in the school tax has led to it being one of the largest, if not the largest, tax they pay. He said increases in the tax rate are especially difficult for those on a fixed income.

“I was on the school board, so I see where you are coming from,” Wilkerson said. “But I also see where they are coming from, as well. I wish there was an easy solution.”

However, with less funding from the state, the increases are necessary, Kidwell said. Superintendent Smith added that in order for CIS to even “have a place at the table” when it comes to seeking state funds, they must take the increase.

“The $161,000 in revenue that this brings in is actually worth a lot more in terms of getting our name where it needs to be,” Kirby Smith said, speaking in terms of competing for state funding.

“When you go to the state and ask for assistance with anything, that is one of the first things they ask you, they ask if you have passed the four percent each year,” Kidwell added. “They ask also if you have passed the local nickel. They ask you that before they really have a conversation with you.”

Hall said she was in a very difficult position. She said she wants to do what is best for the students to provide them with plenty of opportunities, but also said she does not want to be seen as inconsiderate to other members of the community.

“That is certainly not the case,” Hall said. “It is not a decision we take lightly… I understand how hard this is. It is hard for all of us… I wish there was a better answer.”

“I look at it through two different lenses,” Kidwell said. “I don’t like paying the higher tax, but I know what it takes to run the school system.”

Overstreet, who cast the lone dissenting vote among the board members in attendance, said he is aware of the ramifications of a tax increase, and knows it can make it hard on some people. Overstreet asked if it would be possible to increase the tax rate, but less than the proposed four percent.

Board member Barkley Taylor said she understood the concerns of the community members, being recently retired, and said the board members would not even consider the tax increase if they didn’t have to.

“If we didn’t have to do this, I would be the first one saying that we shouldn’t, but I don’t know what the solution is,” Taylor said.

The board members echoed the phrase that the tax is a “necessary evil.”

The regular monthly meeting of the Campbellsville Independent School Board is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 11, at 6 p.m. at the board’s central office. School board meetings are open to the public.

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