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School board nixes tax increase

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Large crowd was prepared to ask questions after 5.25% rate increase notice

By Ben Carlson

Not only won’t the school board raise the property tax rate 5.25 percent, it voted last Thursday to keep the rate at a level that will actually reduce the amount of money it receives in the coming year.

The board voted unanimously to take the revenue cut after around 50 concerned business owners and residents filled the board’s meeting room, armed with questions and demanding answers.

Board Chairman Lee Hahn immediately took the wind out of the crowd’s sails by announcing that the board would not vote for a tax increase.

His statement was greeted with a round of applause, but was followed by a bevy of questions regarding how the school district spends money.

Superintendent Kim Shaw said the vote means the district will receive about $97,000 less in local revenue during the coming year, adding he’s confident the district can make up the difference through a combination of energy savings and federal stimulus funds.

Although those in attendance who wished to ask questions were told to sign in, the school board did not require them to state their names. Instead, people peppered the board with questions, including one from a woman who brought up why the school district spent $15,000 for a mural at Emma B. Ward Elementary School.

No answer was given, but Superintendent Kim Shaw said later that the mural was actually paid for with grant money.

A man questioned if the board should be audited by an outside auditor, and another questioned why virtually all of the expansion work recently done by the district was done by contractors outside of Anderson County.

Answers were short in supply, but Hahn said several times that the board meets the third Monday of each month and people are welcome to attend and ask questions.

He offered to get back to some people with answers, as well.

The public response began several days before Thursday’s meeting when a group of business owners gathered at Eagle Lake to discuss a story they read in The Anderson News detailing the district’s call for a 5.25 percent tax rate increase.

They met again the following day, and showed up in large numbers Thursday night.

Asked to explain why the district advertised for a 5.25 rate increase, Shaw said that the figure is provided by the state. He said the board has accepted a 4 percent revenue increase for the past 15 or so years, and that the 5.25 rate would have done it again this year.

E-mail Ben Carlson at bcarlson@theandersonnews.com.