School Districts Face Difficult Funding Options
Last week’s school board meeting was “short, sweet and to the point,” in Finance Officer Amber Minor’s words, but it will be interesting to see if the tax hearing scheduled for today, Thursday, Aug. 23, will be. The board will be considering tax rates for the 2018-2019 school year.
According to Minor, the district’s cash balance for July was $4.1 million, lower than the $4.8 million recorded during the same time last year. While revenue was up 6-percent compared to last July—largely due to the district receiving $60,000 in property and motor vehicle taxes this July as opposed to getting nothing last July—expenditures were up 14-percent compared to last year. This year the district spent $67,000 more on instruction than last July, Minor said.
After the tax hearing at 5:30 p.m., the board will hold a special meeting at 6 p.m. to set the tax rate and look at Section 6 allocations.
Earlier this month, the Burgin Board of Education voted to increase the property tax rate in their district to 0.775 per $100 in assessed value. That move came on top of a nickel increase last year, when the tax rate for real estate and tangibles was 0.695 per $100 in assessed value. Burgin officials said the latest tax increase would raise the district’s income by $150,000. Burgin will hold their tax hearing on Sept. 6.
Under state law, taxing entities basically have three choices when it comes to tax rates: to leave them unchanged, to take the compensating rate—which guarantees the same income as the year before—or to raise the rate by four-percent. If an entity exceeds four-percent, it would trigger a recall election.
Raising taxes is never popular, but school districts across the commonwealth are facing a bleak economic picture, with declining state and federal funding. According to the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, funding for grade school education has been cut by 14-percent since 2008 once inflation has been factored in. Districts like Mercer who are fighting to keep students are left with a difficult choice: either cut funding, and by extension, cut programs that lead students to withdraw from school, or raise taxes and face the wrath of property owners.
The next regular meeting of the Mercer County Board of Education will be Thursday, Sept. 20, at 5:30 p.m.
Learn the rest of the story in this week’s issue of the Harrodsburg Herald.