Petition seeks recall of Boyle 'nickel tax'

September 24, 2003|GARY MOYERS

The organizer of a petition drive to bring to the ballot a proposed Boyle County school tax increase says he feels confident taxpayers will have the opportunity to decide the issue.

"We're meeting with some support, and we feel we'll get the signatures we need," said Bill Galbreath. "We've been gathering names for over a week now, door-to-door, and at this point I think the issue will be on the ballot."

The issue is the so-called "nickel tax," actually 5.9 cents, passed by a vote of 4-1 Aug. 21. That increase is in addition to a 4 percent hike - 2.2 cents per $100,000 of assessed property value - districts are allowed to impose without the recall option.

Boyle County Clerk Denise Curtsinger said state statutes allow opponents of the nickel tax 45 days from adoption to generate and submit a recall petition containing at least 10 percent of the district's registered voters who voted in the last presidential election. She said 557 valid signatures would be required, and the 45-day window expires Oct. 5.


"If a petition is submitted within that time frame, and if the required number of signatures appear and are validated, then we are required to immediately notify the school board," said Curtsinger. "At that point the board would have 15 days to decide whether to proceed with the recall vote on the tax, or to withdraw the tax proposal."

Superintendent Pam Rogers said it's too early to know what the board would do if the petition drive succeeds in placing the tax on the ballot.

"I cannot speak for the board, but I know the board feels strongly their responsibility to do what is in the best interest of students and learning," she said.

Vote would involve those living in Boyle County school district

Curtsinger said a recall vote would involve only those voters who live in the Boyle County school district, but pointed out that the district's boundaries don't match city limit lines or even precinct lines.

"There are voters who live inside the city limits who also live in the county taxing district," she said. "If this comes to a vote, election officials will know who is eligible by a code on the ballots."

Galbreath said he began the petition because he feels the increase proposed by the school board is excessive.

"The difference between the 4 percent they are allowed and the total with the extra nickel tax is too much to ask at one time," he said. "We're talking about a jump of $77 a year for somebody with $100,000 of property, and that's a lot of money, especially when the economy is like it is."

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. August's increase to 53.3 cents would raise the tax on the same property to $533, an increase of $77 per year.

The nickel tax bill was enacted in March by the Kentucky General Assembly to allow school districts to implement a one-time measure to raise money for debt service and capital projects. Certain districts who exceeded pupil growth amounts were allowed to implement the tax without the recall provision; Boyle County did not meet that criteria. Districts not in the growth range are allowed to implement the tax; however, it is subject to voter recall.

The actual amount of the nickel tax calculates to 5.9 cents per $100,000 of assessed property, required to produce the 5-cent equivalent tax necessary to match certain state and federal grant programs. 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 for debt service and capital improvements.

Rogers said the tax is needed.

"The board voted in favor of the additional nickel tax because they know all of our main campus schools are too small for their populations," said Rogers. "They know the high school, our most heavily-used facility, has not been renovated since 1990, and all aspects of that building need to be addressed. They know, for the safety of our students, traffic flow and parking on the main campus and at Perryville and Junction City elementary schools needs to be improved. They know that this district's bonding potential will increase four times with the additional nickel, going a significant distance to address the $29 million in identified construction and renovation needs that will ultimately benefit all five of our schools and, therefore, the entire community. Appropriate environments are critical to student learning, and I believe most people in this community expect this board to do what is in the best interest of students," said Rogers.

Too early to tell if vote would be in November

Curtsinger said it's too early to know whether a recall initiative would make it on the November election ballot.

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