Boyle school board rescinds 'nickel' tax

October 10, 2003|GARY MOYERS


The Boyle County Board of Education's plan to implement a "nickel tax" was rescinded Thursday night.

The board held a special meeting to address the tax issue after it was informed Monday it had violated state law by failing to properly advertise the measure after passing it Aug. 21.

Board Chairman Preston Miles expressed concern that if the increase of 5.9 cents-per-$100 of assessed property value were left in place, it could be challenged in court.

"There is the anxiety that someone in the community could bring a suit against us," he said.

Bill Galbreath spearheaded a petition drive against the recallable tax, but learned at a meeting Monday that his petition had been declared invalid by County Clerk Denise Curtsinger because of a technicality. State law calls for recall petitions to list voters from each precinct on separate pages; Galbreath's petition did not.


Present at that meeting in the Boyle Fiscal Court room were Galbreath, his attorney, Richard Clay, Curtsinger, County Attorney Richard Campbell, Boyle Superintendent Pam Rogers and Miles.

Rogers was informed at the meeting by Campbell that the board had also made a mistake with its failure to advertise the tax after it was adopted.

"Toward the end of the conversation, Ms. Curtsinger indicted she was going to rule the petition invalid due to a technicality," said Rogers. "However, we as a board have also miscued. We met our obligation for advertising prior to the board meeting, once we set the rate, but because it was subject to recall we were supposed to advertise again, but we failed to do so."

The ruling effectively killed the recall petition, and since the 45-day submission deadline had passed, there was no time for another petition. Board members were left with the choices of rescinding the 5.9-cent tax, or leaving it in place and taking a chance it would withstand a possible legal challenge.

Complicating the issue is the fact that Curtsinger, faced with a deadline, has delivered the county's tax bills to the printer - without the county school tax finalized.

"If we take action today, we can notify the clerk tomorrow and possibly have this included on the tax bills that are being printed," said Miles. "One of the anxieties is that the compensating rate is not published on those bills. We would bear the cost of subsequently posting tax bills, which Ms. Curtsinger estimated would cost approximately $7,000."

Even then, Rogers said there is no guarantee the school tax can still be added to the printed bills, Rogers said.

Rogers also pointed out that if the board chose to leave the nickel tax in place, the school system would bear the cost of the special election, which she said could be between $25,000 and $60,000.

Prior to the vote to rescind the tax, which was unanimous, members of the board and the audience voiced opinions about the possibility of a legal challenge, as well as voter sentiment.

"I think the voters of Boyle County are against it," said Wayne Greer, one of the petition supporters. "I think you're opening yourself up to legal action if you go forward with it."

Rogers said she was told by Campbell that petition supporters could appeal Curtsinger's decision by filing a lawsuit in Boyle Circuit Court. Galbreath said the petition contained 879 signatures, 655 of which were verified by Curtsinger. State law required 557 verified signatures - 10 percent of the number of people from the 20 affected precincts who voted in the 2000 presidential election - to bring the issue to a recall vote.

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. Had the nickel tax been adopted on top of the compensatory tax, the resulting jump to 53.3 cents would raise the tax on the same property to $533, an increase of $77 per year.

With just the 4 percent compensatory rate enacted, however, school tax bills will rise $18 per $100,000 of property.

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 that 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 deadline for imposing the tax has now passed, however, and unless the General Assembly renews it in 2004, the opportunity has passed.

That left the board with the task of making sure the nonrecallable compensatory rate of 4 percent, adopted in August in the same motion as the nickel tax, would still be in effect. Questions were raised as to whether the board needed separate motions to rescind the nickel tax and adopt the compensatory tax, and board members took a 10-minute recess while Rogers called board attorney William Barnett for advice.

Rogers said Barnett advised her the matter could be dealt with in one motion.

Rogers said the loss of the nickel tax revenue is a blow to the system.

"The additional tax would have increased bonding potential from $3 million to $9 million, but our need remains at $29 million to address traffic safety, overcrowding and climate issues," said Rogers. "With $3 million bonding capacity without the tax, we'll be applying Band-aids to our issues without being able to make meaningful progress on needs that continue to grow. In 1995, for instance, our construction need was approximately $20 million. We've completed major projects since then, but our needs have grown to $29 million today."

The board will next meet in regular session Oct. 23 at Boyle County High School.

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