Shelby County School Board: Tax increase passes without any ‘thanks’

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Extra revenue should cover most of teachers’ 1% raise

By Todd Martin

A sarcastic "thanks, thanks a lot" rang out from the crowd as the Shelby County Board of Education passed a 2.5 percent increase, plus a .2-cent exoneration allowance, on personal property and real estate taxes.

The vocal crowd  at the board’s meeting Thursday at Shelby County High School called out just before the vote that the board should not "keep throwing money" at problems in a time of economic restraint.

However, the board agreed with Superintendent James Neihof's proposal and voted to increase the personal property and real estate tax to 69.7 cents per $100 of assessed value, a 1.9 cent increase including the .2-cent exoneration allowance.

Board members Sam Hinkle, Eddie Mathis and Doug Butler voted for the increase, and Allen Phillips against. Brenda Jackson was absent from the meeting.

Three members of the community signed in and spoke during the public hearing portion of the meeting, imploring the board to take the economic times into account when it voted.

"Kentucky's unemployment rate is ten percent and Shelby County is eight percent. People are losing their jobs, homes, savings and retirements," said Jeannie Campbell of Simpsonville. "People in the Shelby County district are struggling, and the last thing we need is additional money taken from us."

The increase will generate about $369,000 more in general property tax, but an expected decrease in the amount collected in the public service tax and very slight increases in motor vehicle and utility taxes collected have district officials predicting a net of about $303,000 from the increase.

That amount comes very close to covering the roughly $310,000 needed to cover a 1 percent raise for teachers that went into effect for the 2011-12 school year. That raise was approved by the board earlier this year and will begin to take affect on teachers' paychecks in September.

It's the first raise the district has offered since it cut the school calendar by two days three years ago. When the district cut the calendar, which is how teachers salaries are set, a 1.5 percent raise was added, but that didn't replace the salary lost from two working days.

That increased amount will cover the estimated cost of the 1 percent raise, but it doesn't account for the cost of the increase in student population. At Thursday's meeting the district said the current count shows an increase of 82 students.

The 2.5 percent increase would increase a $100,000 home's property tax bill by $19. The median home value in Shelby County is about $180,000, which would generate an increase of about $34.

This year's increase, including the exoneration allowance which is allowed by state law to offset any lost revenue from exonerations the previous year, is .7 cents more than last year's 1.2 cent increase, although less than the 2 cent proposed increase last year.

"I have four hundred and seventy-five acres that I pay taxes on, but I don't see another option," said Mathis before moving to accept this year's rate increase.

Added Hinkle: "Are our schools where we want them to be? No. And our children aren't where we need them to be. But I think we're making a real effort to turn things around, and we're trying to make an effort for our teachers.

“I think this is the best investment we can make in our county and our future."