School board to ponder 4% revenue hike

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Mitchell: Most taxpayers would be able to pay increased property tax bill

By Meaghan Downs

The Anderson County Board of Education is weighing a 4 percent revenue increase for the upcoming fiscal year, which would give it an additional $378,000 in revenue.
The board of education has kept its tax rate flat since the 2008-09 school year, with the current tax rate set at $5.52 per $1,000 of assessed value on real estate.
A 4 percent revenue increase, the maximum tax rate the board can set without subjecting its decision to a public referendum, would raise the district’s tax rate to $5.69, a 3 percent increase that would add $17 to tax bills for properties assessed at $100,000.
In an interview prior to the board’s Monday night work session on the tax rates, Superintendent Sheila Mitchell said she would recommend either last year’s tax rate or the 4 percent revenue to the school board.
A 4 percent revenue increase would “allow for a little more flexibility in the budget,” she said.  
“I mean it’s $17 on the $100,000… I could not predict each different taxpayer’s ability to pay that,” Mitchell said in a phone interview. “I would think most taxpayers would be able to pay that amount of an increase. I realize in this economy, any increase can be or would be difficult.”
In a subsequent e-mail, Mitchell clarified her statement: “I understand that any additional burden for some will be hard and for others it will not,” she said via e-mail. “My recommendation for an increase is based upon the benefit it will bring the education of our children. The benefits include, being able to continue to offer well-trained, highly qualified staff and resources needed to meet the educational needs of all students.”
At a rate of $5.69 per $1,000, a 4 percent revenue increase adds $378,204 more in tax revenue for the district than last year.
The district’s compensating rate for real and personal property, at $5.48 per $1,000, lowers the rate by 1 percent.
Tax revenue, however, would still increase by $62,000 with the compensating rate, according to current property valuation rates reported in The Anderson News.  
Mitchell said she would not be recommending the compensating rate to the board because “it’s a decrease in the revenue that our district would be bringing in” in comparison to the other two rates.  
According to a legal notice advertising the Aug. 29 public hearing on the potential tax rate increase, the additional revenue accrued with the maximum rate would be divided into three general categories: $11,346 toward cost of collections; $256,800 for instruction; and $36,688 for maintenance of plant.
According to Mitchell, the board is required by the state to advertise a public hearing when the compensating rate is lower than the district’s flat or no change rate.
In a follow-up e-mail, Mitchell said she would recommend a final vote on the tax rate after the public hearing.
Mitchell said she was unsure how the extra $378,000 would be applied, and deferred questions about the specific language of the legal ad to finance officer Nick Clark.
As of press time, Clark was on paternity leave, and could not be reached for comment regarding the district’s tax rates or the legal ad advertising the public hearing.  
In a phone interview last Thursday, Board Chairman Roger McDowell said the board will hopefully be able to get through another year without any tax increase.
“I just think if we can get a little bit of a revenue increase without putting an additional burden on any of the taxpayers ... we’ve got a budget that can support it this year, but next year, if they keep the cuts going, it’s gonna get tighter and tighter,” McDowell said during the work session.
Board member Lee Hahn agreed and said Mitchell, Clark and their staff have been able to maintain the quality of education even though Anderson County is one of the few school districts that haven’t raised taxes.
“I’m against raising the tax rate right now, but with that being said, I think you and your staff have adjusted enough to holding the rates,” Hahn said to Mitchell during the work session.
Board member James Sargent said he blamed the state for the more than $390,000 cuts in Support Education Excellence in Kentucky or SEEK funding and the lack of funding for textbooks.
“Here we are, just a little old school board in our community,” he said. “If we raise anything up, they’re going to put us out there and string us out. The people in Frankfort forgetting about us.”
“We’re just people in our community trying to do a service,” Sargent said. “But they keep cutting money and keep wanting us to be the bad guys.”
The board will also be voting on whether to add a $14,625 in exonerations in an effort to recover non-collected taxes. Last year the board did not approve adding the exoneration amount to the overall tax rate, according to Mitchell.
The Board of Education approved a working budget in May, including about $750,000 in spending increases.
According to Kentucky Revised Statute 160.4702, the board must submit its final budget to the state by Sept. 30.
The budget included more than $500,000 in salary raises for Anderson County teachers, including a salary step increase, 1 percent raise and additional retirement benefits, for a total $601,286.
According to Mitchell, the district’s salary schedule for teachers has been implemented and been in effect since July 1.

Want to go?
The Board of Education will hold a public hearing regarding a potential 4 percent revenue increase on Aug. 29 at 5:30 p.m. at central office, located off of US 127.
The public hearing is subject to cancellation by the Board of Education.