'Nickel' tax increase for Boyle schools hits legal snag, as does the petition to recall it

October 07, 2003|GARY MOYERS

The Boyle County school district's plan to implement a 5.9-cent property tax hike hit a legal snag Monday.

So did a petitioner's drive to have the measure placed on the ballot.

County Clerk Denise Curtsinger declared a recall petition invalid because it contained signatures from several precincts on each page, rather than one precinct per page as required by Kentucky law.

At the same petition validation hearing, County Attorney Richard Campbell informed the board of education it failed to comply with certain advertising and public information requirements mandated by statute.

In effect, this means the recall petition is invalid, and the Boyle board's decision to implement the tax is in question.


Boyle Superintendent Pam Rogers said the matter will be addressed at a special meeting Thursday.

Curtsinger has given the school board a deadline of Friday, as she has been holding tax bills until the issue is resolved.

"Two points of non-compliance with Kentucky Revised Statutes, one regarding board procedure and the other regarding the petition to recall the tax levy, leave our board with options they will consider Thursday evening in a special, called meeting to begin at 6:15 p.m.," said Rogers.

The board will decide whether to continue with the tax implementation and face possible legal challenges, or rescind the measure. If the measure is rescinded, the board gives up any opportunity to implement it in the future. The ability to pass the tax had a deadline, and the deadline has passed.

The "nickel tax," as it has been nicknamed, was adopted by the Kentucky General Assembly in March as a way for districts to raise funds for construction and debt service. Districts meeting minimum growth criteria were allowed to implement the tax, which calculates to five cents plus a growth percentage per $100,000 of property, without being subjected to the possibility of voter recall.

Districts not meeting that minimum growth criteria, including Boyle County, were allowed to implement the same tax, but voters could petition to have the measure placed on the ballot.

Boyle County also implemented a 4 percent tax increase as allowed by law, which calculates to 2.7 cents per $100,000 of property, which is not subject to recall. The total tax increase would have been 8.6 cents per $100,000.

One of the measures to be addressed Thursday will be the 4 percent tax. If the minutes show that it was adopted in the same motion as the nickel tax, and if the board chooses to rescind the nickel tax, another motion will have to be made reinstate the 4 percent tax.

Bill Galbreath, who spearheaded the petition drive to recall the nickel tax, said the signatures on the petition were valid.

"Everything was in order, except the requirement by the KRS which governed that the petition was to be separated by precinct, on separate signature pages," said Galbreath in a statement. "The petition which I turned in did not meet this requirement. My petition did not divide by precinct but included the whole school district. (Curtsinger) said that she was following the KRS by the word and therefore declared the petition invalid."

Galbreath was required to collect 557 or more signatures of registered votes in the 20 precincts that would have participated in the election. That figure represents 10 percent of the number of registered voters who participated in the 2000 presidential election.

Then the bombshell was dropped about the board's advertising compliance failure.

The board is required, by law, to hold a public hearing on the proposed tax, which it held. It is also required to advertise the hearing in the newspaper of record, in this case The Advocate-Messenger, at least twice in two consecutive weeks. Those advertisements were published, but a required advertisement after the hearing was held was not published.

"Although we advertised prior to the board action, we did not advertise following the board decision to levy the additional nickel tax," said Rogers.

Rogers said the board will need to consider possible litigation when it meets Thursday.

"These points of non-compliance could provide the basis for litigation, and the board needs to talk through the implications for the district," said Rogers.

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