Tax recall ballots, retirement benefits among passed legislation
Kentucky School Advocate
By Brenna R. Kelly
• House Bill 133 reduces the number of signatures required to put a school board tax increase on a ballot for a recall vote. Gov. Andy Beshear did not veto the bill so it will become law. Instead of the signatures of 10 percent of the voters in the previous presidential election, petitioners will now need only 5,000 signatures or 10 percent of voters, whichever is less. The bill will only immediately impact Boone, Fayette, Jefferson, Kenton and Warren counties.
• HB 258 creates a new tier of benefits for new hires in the Teachers’ Retirement System, starting with teachers hired on and after Jan. 1, 2022.
• HB 312 makes major changes to the state’s Open Records Act, including the rules governing how district staff must respond to records requests.
• HB 331 removes the authority for the appointed state board of education and commissioner to remove locally elected board of education members from office, while keeping the legal process intact for the attorney general to seek removal.
• HB 405 establishes the School Funding Task Force, which will study all aspects of public education funding. It will include three local board of education members, three superintendents, three House members, three senators and the commissioner of education. The task force has been charged to submit a report to the Legislative Research Commission (LRC) by Dec. 1. The bill also directs the Kentucky Department of Education to submit a report by Nov. 1 to the LRC and the task force on how to ensure the equitable transfer of education funds so that funds can follow non-resident students to another school district. HB 405 also provides $10 million to assist school districts with costs for construction and repairs on facilities damaged by recent floods. The money will be distributed by the School Facilities Construction Commission.
• HB 556 provides $127 million of federal money from the American Rescue Plan Act for school replacement and renovation. The money will be available to districts through the School Facilities and Construction Commission for schools ranked highest on the Kentucky Facilities Inventory and Classification System report as of Feb. 27, 2020. The projects must be listed as first or second priority on the district’s facility plan. Districts must also have levied a 10-cent equivalent tax dedicated to capital improvements but still be unable to fund a renovation or new school. The bill includes $75 million in state money for local area vocational education center renovations. Districts can receive up to $10 million for renovations and a needs-based local match will be required.
• HB 178 changes the make-up of the Kentucky Board of Education to reflect equal gender representation and proportionally of the state’s political affiliation and minority racial composition. The bill also adds the secretary of the Education and Workforce Cabinet, a student and a teacher as non-voting members and prohibits the governor from reorganizing the board. The bill will not change the make-up of the current board.
• HB 192, the state budget bill, was mostly a continuation of this year’s budget. Two new items in the budget were funding for 24 new Family and Youth Service Centers across the state and $800,000 to participate in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.
• HB 574 changes how elections work in the state. However, one section of the bill impacts school districts. The bill prohibits local, state, and federal tax dollars from being used to advocate for or against any public question that appears on the ballot. That means the districts would not be able to use public money to help advocate for a tax increase such as a nickel tax.
• Senate Bill 101 allows local boards to request to take over the operations of a state-operated area technology center and receive funding for the center if they notify KDE by Dec. 31. Districts would receive 100 percent of the state funds to operate the center the first year and then 75 percent of the funding thereafter.
• SR 205 was a Senate resolution that confirmed the appointment of Lisle Cheatham to serve as KSBA’s representative to the new County Employees Retirement System (CERS) Board of Trustees.
• SB 5 provides limited protections from liability in lawsuits directly tied to COVID-19 for school districts, employees and boards, except in cases of gross negligence or intentional misconduct. The bill also protects other health care providers and many other entities that provided essential services during COVID.