"It's tough to raise taxes, and I'm not normally a person in favor of tax increases," said board member Tommy McGirr. "I just think this is necessary to keep our system from going backwards."
Elliott was the only person at the hearing to speak in opposition of the tax, while the remaining board members and three of the district's school principals spoke in favor.
"We're busting at the seams," said Boyle High School principal Kerry Anness. "This is not a tax increase to fund salary increases; it's for space that we already need, and even more space we're going to need down the road."
Under last year's rate of 45.6 cents, the owner of property assessed at $100,000 was required to pay $456 in school property taxes. Thursday's increase to 53.3 cents would raise the tax on the same property to $533, an increase of $77 per year.
School districts were empowered in March by the Kentucky General Assembly with the ability to enact the so-called "nickel growth" tax, subject to public recall, as a one-time measure to raise money for debt service and capital projects. The actual amount calculates to 5.9 cents, required to produce the five-cent equivalent tax necessary in certain state and federal grant programs.
Money must be used for debt service and capital improvements
The 5.9 cent increase would generate an additional $411,991 in revenue for the district, with the stipulation that the money can only be used or debt service and capital improvements.
Opponents of the 5.9-cent increase have 45 days from the time the tax is adopted to generate and submit a petition signed by 10 percent of the county's registered voters who voted during the most recent presidential election. If such a petition is submitted and ruled valid by the county clerk, the measure would appear on the ballot. The 45-day window began Thursday, since the tax increase does not require second reading under state law. The 4 percent increase - 2.2 cents per $100 more than last year's rate - is not subject to voter recall.
Rick Dear, Executive Director of Learning Support for the Boyle system and its financial officer, presented figures at a meeting Aug. 14 that said the system has $29 million in unmet needs, as directed by the Kentucky Department of Education, including $12 million for a proposed new middle school that would alleviate overcrowding at both Woodlawn and the current middle school.
"If we don't do the nickel tax, we couldn't consider another middle school for eight or nine years, depending on our bond ability at that time," said Dear. "Without the tax, we will be able to do some small projects, but not as fast as we need to do them with our projected growth."
Chris Bowling, a representative of J.J.B. Hilliard, W.L. Lyons, Inc., serving as the district's financial consultant, outlined Boyle County's current debt service and bond capacity at the special meeting last week, and then provided estimates of how much the bond capacity would increase with the implementation of the tax.
"With the nickel tax, Boyle County would be able to meet the debt service on a bond of $8,675,000, but without the tax, that figure would fall to about $2.2 million," he said.