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Lincoln Co. School Board approves property tax increase

STANFORD — The Lincoln County School Board approved a property tax increase at its September meeting Thursday at the Student Support Center.

The local board voted 4-1 to approve the 2019-20 General Fund Levy of 60.2 cents for every $100 of assessed real and personal property value with exonerations. Of this new rate, 5.7 cents is a nickel tax that is subject to recall.

Superintendent Michael Rowe, who made the recommendation to the board that it takes the 60.2 rate, explained exonerations before Board Chairman Tom Blankenship took a motion on the proposed increase.

“Nobody ever collects taxes at 100 percent so they allow you to raise the tax a little bit higher to offset the amount you did not get the previous year,” he said. “For us, that’s .1 cent. That’s why the exoneration is listed.”

The 60.2 rate is up from 53.5 cents paid last year, an increase of 6.7 cents per $100 of property and 5.7 cents of that is recallable.

According to Rowe, the recallable portion of the tax, which is classified as restricted funds, could increase the school district’s bonding/borrowing potential significantly.

“Our current bonding potential, after the two roof projects that we finally got approved, is $4,125,000,” he said. “If the nickel tax is approved, that would generate an additional $12-million. That would bring the grand total of our bonding potential to $16,125,000. If we can convince our legislators and the state, which I have a very strong feeling that we can convince them to do a total match, their match would be $14-million dollars which would turn our $4,125,000 into $30,125,00. So we have a chance to increase it by $26-million if we get a full match if it’s passed.”

The school district also anticipates an additional $5-million of bonding capacity from old debt rolling off and increases in FSPK funding. This would bring the grand total bonding potential to $35,125,000.

The recallable nickel tax can only be spent on major renovations of existing school facilities, new construction of facilities, debt service, which the school system doesn’t currently have bonds which can be paid off early, and/or land acquisition approved by the Commissioner of Education in order to build new facilities.

These funds cannot be used for salaries or to increase salaries.

Board member Ricky Lane made the motion to approve the tax increase and Win Smith seconded the motion. Ethan Jones, Blankenship, Lane and Smith all voted to approve the increase and Alan Hubble had the no vote.

“The Lincoln County District Facility Plan currently lists over $72-million in unmet needs for facilities. These newly-created funds will allow the district to fully renovate or construct new facilities to put us on par with surrounding school districts,” Rowe said. “The students of Lincoln County deserve facilities of equal quality to those in Boyle, Casey, Danville, Garrard, Pulaski, Rockcastle and Somerset school districts.”

According to information provided by Brad Smith, Lincoln County Schools Communication Director, data from the Kentucky Department of Education revealed Lincoln’s tax rate had been the sixth lowest out of the eight neighboring districts. The 2018-19 local district tax rates (per $100 of assessed value) showed Danville at 94.6, Somerset, 77.1, Boyle, 71.8, Garrard, 67.5, Pulaski, 55.7, Lincoln, 53.5, Casey, 48.7 and Rockcastle, 42. The approved increase to 60.2 still ranks Lincoln as one of the lowest tax rates in the area.

During the meeting, the board also reviewed and approved the 2019-20 working budget for the school district based on the tax rate. The contingency fund is budgeted at $1,535,000, which is 4 percent of the budget. The Kentucky Department of Education requires a minimum 2 percent contingency fund.

Salary includes a 2 percent increase for all staff, as well as, increases for step and rank change. Total salary and benefits make up 77.6 percent of the general fund budget. Budgeted salary and benefits for 2018-19 was 78.3 percent and budgeted for 2017-18 was 74.4 percent.

The budget includes funding for the following: textbooks $100,000; athletics $78,000; senior diplomas $3,000; Perkins allocation $20,000; instructional field trips $17,695; KSBIT payoff $42,244; security resource officer $52,800; technology upgrades $71,126; and LCHS band $3,000.