93 school boards took maximum 4% revenue hike in 2014 tax rates
state leaders warn of dire consequences if K-12 funding not increased
This from KSBA:
More Kentucky school boards took the maximum, non-recallable local tax revenue increase this fall than in any year since 2008, according to a report given Wednesday to the Kentucky Board of Education. But Department of Education leaders also said that, unless state funds for public schools are boosted during next year’s session of the General Assembly, a growing number of districts may not be able to make ends meet.
A total of 93 boards set 2014 tax rates designed to produce a 4 percent revenue boost – the maximum without running the risk of a voter recall petition, such as the referendum that recently defeated a tax increase by the Graves County board and hikes that drew challenges in at least three other districts.
The last time as many boards took the maximum revenue increase was 2008, when 107 did so.
This year, 53 boards voted for the compensating rate, the smallest number since 2009. The compensating rate is designed to give a district the same revenue as was produced the previous year.
Twenty-six other boards adopted local property tax rates ranging from no increase to amounts to that will produce less than the 4 percent revenue increase.
The report generated warnings by top KDE officials about the financial conditions being faced by all of the state’s public school systems.
“Yesterday, I briefed the Democratic Senate caucus (of the General Assembly),” said Education Commissioner Terry Holliday. “They said that during the interim the No. 1 issue they are hearing about from their constituents is local districts raising their taxes. I’m hearing quite often from superintendents and board members who are saying, politically, it’s getting almost impossible in some places because people see this as a 4 percent tax hike. I’m encouraged so many took the 4 percent. Local school board members are really taking heat. House and Senate members are taking heat. No one wants to raise taxes.
“We have gotten so polarized in our nation and state that any mention of a tax increase is going to be met with strong opposition. This is going to be a huge issue in local school board races and the General Election in 2014,” Holliday said.
KDE Associate Commissioner Hiren Desai told the state board, “Districts are having to use their local effort to make up for the fact that state funding has been reduced over the last several years.”
To which KBE Chairman Roger Marcum said, “And that needs to be a lobbying point.”
Holliday pointed to more looming consequences for Kentucky districts.
“You have a perfect storm brewing coming about March or April of sequestration, KSBIT and the continuing state cuts. You have not seen pink slips in this state to the large number that you’re going to see,” the commissioner said. “I would predict that, come budget season next year, you’re going to see 10 to 12 districts that will be struggling to figure out ways to meet their basic funding requirements.”
The growing dependence on meeting school fiscal needs through local tax increases also affects the difference in educational opportunities for children in the “haves and the have nots,” according to the commissioner.
The gap between districts with the highest and lowest per pupil expenditure is more than $11,000,” Holliday said. “An elementary classroom with 20 kids in the highest per-pupil district probably has as much as $250,000 more per classroom than the smaller per pupil district. In the last four years, (the gap) has increased because the state has shifted its responsibility back to the local district. That’s why I pushed that the state needs to step up. This is a state issue. “
During the meeting, the state board of education adopted its 2014 legislative agenda, which several speakers noted is driven by three factors: “Budget. Budget. And budget.”