...LaRue Co. board raises tax revenues max 4% on 4-1 vote; one member calls past reliance on compensating rate like "treading water...but we have sunk some"

LaRue County Herald-News, Hodgenville, Aug. 31, 2016

School taxes increased 4%
by Doug Ponder

The LaRue County School Board approved a four percent property tax rate increase for the 2016-2017 school year at a special called meeting on August 24.

A tax hearing was held before the special called meeting and several people attended the hearing. However, no one from the crowd discussed the issue or had questions about it. The board discussed their choices of picking the four percent increase or the compensating rate, which is the tax rate that is applied to the property assessment of the current year.

According to a webpage featuring information about the tax rate, the four percent increase raised the rate to 47.6 cents per $100 of assessed value. The four percent increase will generate approximately $62,254 more revenue than last year and the owner of a $75,000 home in LaRue County would pay $357 this year as opposed to $337.50 from the previous year, which is a $20.50 increase. The webpage further states that LaRue County is one of the lowest taxing districts in the region and that, with the four percent increase, property owners would still pay lower than any 2015 rate in surrounding counties. The page also states that some school programs are at risk without additional funding and that not increasing district revenue for the past several years has resulted in a slow growing bonding capacity, which is the district’s ability to finance facility improvement or construction projects.

During the special called meeting, a motion to approve the four percent rate increase was made by board member Dawn Conner and it was seconded by Farrah Pruitt. However, before the vote, a lengthy discussion took place between the board about the issue.

Pruitt said that they have a difficult decision as a board and that raising the rate may not be a necessity every year, but she said it was this year.\

“We are all property owners. Paying more taxes is not liked by most and I don’t want to pay more taxes. When I look at my children and the children in this community, this money has an impact on them,” Pruitt said. “It’s not about us, it’s about them and the future we provide for them. I want their foundation to be strong and if this allows that to continue then I am all for it.”

Board member Price Smith said that the district has passed the compensating rate for the past eight years and that it has hurt the district financially.

“The compensating rate is treading water because it’s the rate that has to be assigned to collect the same amount as previously,” Smith said. “We have not treaded water; we have sunk some. We have been running off some fiscal decisions from the past."

Conner also agreed with Pruitt and Smith, saying that there isn’t a greater resource for LaRue County than the children of the county.

“We are doing phenomenal things to make a difference and give them opportunities they have never had,” Conner said. “The reason we all do what we do is because they are our greatest resource and how can you not give everything you have to them because they are our future.”

The only one who voiced opposition to the four percent increase was Board member Linda Pearman. She said that the increase was “business as usual in LaRue County” as
the property owners are expected to pay all the bills. She eluded to the fact that growth is not encouraged because LaRue County is not a “building friendly” county and that they have too many regulations.

“I hope that school professionals encourage growth. We have all got to push for growth because we can’t have property owners carrying the whole load,” Pearman said. “My vote probably isn’t going to make a difference one way or another. We have got to use the fact that we have excellent schools as a winning card to get people to move here, build homes and do whatever to up their assessment to afford to leave the property owner alone for awhile.”

Board Chairperson Joanna Hinton did not discuss the issue prior to voting. After no further discussion, every board member voted in favor of the four percent raise except Pearman, who voted against the motion.

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