There will be a notice coming out in today’s copy of the Three Forks Tradition regarding a tax hearing for the board to take the 4% rate for the school tax.  The hearing is scheduled on Thursday, September 5, 2019 at 6:00 p.m. in the board room of our central office location. 

The “4% rate” does NOT mean that taxes go up 4%.  It is simply the rate that would have to be set for the board to receive 4% more money than the amount that would be generated by taking what is called the compensating rate.  The compensating rate leaves the revenue at what is was the previous year.

This year, the 4% increase rate would equate to 49.0 cents.  This is only a 2.3 cent increase over the current rate of 47.7 cents.   Taxes will not be raised 4%.

As superintendent, I have the task of making expenditures match revenue while meeting the needs of the students.  I have studied the current budget for many hours and know that without the saving of funds in the past, the expenditures would exceed revenues and we could not function.  The only way to make the two balance is to increase income or decrease expenditures.  I have found some areas that I think we can reduce expenditures, but many areas have already been cut throughout the last several years.  The school system has closed a school and combined the middle and high school to save money.  Programs and positions have already been cut and will have to be looked at again.

Our students need services and buildings need attention to meet the needs of the students.  The children in Lee County are the future of the sustainability of Lee County, and it is our responsibility as a community to meet their educational needs.

In looking at the money we would receive from setting the tax rate at 49.0 cents, the new revenue would be approximately $35,225.60.  All of the figures below are estimates of money that would be spent and the actual funds would be based on the actual tax amount collected.  My recommendations for use of the funds would be:

$9,000 towards athletics at the middle high school level.  We would pay the KHSAA dues, purchase items for facilities or grounds that are needed to assist the teams, and support athletics by paying our drivers for some of the trips as well as pick up some of the cost for middle school trips.  If we can relieve the athletic fund of these types of expenditures the school can spend the money taken in from ticket sales and raised by our booster clubs more directly on the athletic needs of the students.

$5,400 towards elementary Field Trips in the way of fuel cost and driver cost.  Because trip cost is so expensive, this would allow the schools to help support trips by collecting smaller amounts from families and school funds could contribute to other expenses.  I believe it is important for our students to have experiences through the schools that take them beyond the walls of our buildings.

$19,416.60 towards the HVAC project at the LCMHS.  The air conditioning has been a problem at the school for some time and we have estimated it will take about $230,000 to fix it right.  This money would help chip away at that cost and I’m sure the staff and students would benefit from this project.  Our students and staff deserve to be in a comfortable environment when they are in the building and when our community joins us in the school it should be comfortable as well.

$1,409 would go to the sheriff’s department as a fee for collecting the taxes.  Our sheriff’s department utilizes the fee of 4% for collecting taxes. 

When you look at surrounding district school tax rates for the 18-19 school year, Lee County is only higher than Wolfe and Powell.  I included the school tax rate for Fayette County in the chart below because it is a bigger district and I’m sure you will hear of the people in Fayette protesting new school taxes so I want you to know where they are with their tax rate.

Total Real-estate Tax Levied   18-19 year

Lee County                               47.7

Breathitt County                       62.7

Estill County                             51.3

Fayette County                         81

Madison County                        63.6

Owsley County                          49.8

Powell County                           42.2

Wolfe County                            34.6

To put the tax rate into a dollar amount, if you look at $50,000 worth of property, at our current rate of 47.7 a tax payer would pay $238.50 for school tax.  With the 49 cent rate, for $50,000 property value, a tax payer would pay $245.00.  This difference is $6.50.

I understand discussing taxes isn't easy.  But I know that Lee County has made several cuts through the last few years in buildings, staff, and resources.  We can’t sustain what we have now on the current revenue, and this $35,225.60 won’t make a huge dent in what we are able to do, but it will make some dent and help us be able to funnel more funds directly to help students.  To meet all the goals of what would be ideal in a budget such as looking at salary scales, pay raises, facility improvement, etc. it will take continuing to be resourceful with our spending and improving attendance and grant money for our revenue.  I hope even if you don’t agree with the tax that you can have an understanding of why we need to implement it.  Our kids and the opportunities they have are important to invest in.  In order to be the hope for them, we have to initiate the changes that can make things happen.