Lincoln BOE approves new division boundary map

Published 5:52 pm Thursday, April 28, 2022

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After several meetings and discussions, the Lincoln County Board of Education has approved new boundary lines for board members.

“One of our goals initially was equalizing districts with a minimum of disruption to voting precincts,” said Chairman Win Smith during the board’s April 14 working meeting.

During several meetings, the board looked at and discussed different options based on population that were generated by the Bluegrass Area Development District.

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The board also wanted to make sure each district was contiguous. District 3 was not contiguous in the original boundary map.

“This had not been looked at for 15 years,” said Board Member Etta Meek. “Bruce Smith brought it up two years ago that we need to look at it and we’re just now looking at it.”

Win Smith said that is because the board had to wait for the latest census data.

“All the other data was just estimated,” he said.

Board member Ricky Lane said there was hesitation from other board members and comments made about “manipulating an election,” despite the fact that he’s the one who will lose the highest number of voters.

“The comment was made about trying to manipulate an election. Obviously, I’m up for election this year and so is Win. I just think it’s funny to talk about manipulating an election whenever I’m losing voters that I don’t like to lose, to be quite frank about,” Lane said. “…if this benefits the candidates running against us, it could also be viewed that keeping it the way it is until the election could also be viewed as trying to manipulate the election so that the opponents have an unfair advantage, especially if they are swaying the other board members to do that.”

Lane said he wants the borders to touch and to be consistent across the board.

“…because the original map was moved to benefit one district; to keep a board member there,” he said. “I think it should be put to where it’s fair. However, I don’t think that my district should take the biggest hit just to make it fair across the board.”

Shane New, Director of Community Planning at Bluegrass AD, said Lane’s district is the most densely populated.

“So, because of that, obviously, you’re going to end up with smaller jurisdiction in the long run. When we originally started with this, yours was over by 940 people,” New said. “Any time you start digging into that Stanford area, your area is going to shrink because it’s the most densely populated area.”

Board Member Bruce Smith said his constituents find the timing of the matter “odd.”

“They find it very odd that I brought this up two years ago and yes, this has been 15 years, so there’s been census data that’s come out since then. It’s very odd this wasn’t important two years ago when I brought it up when I got on the board, and right here before an election coming up here in two months, this has got put on the agenda,” Smith said. “I’ve heard other rumored reasons might be what caused it back in 2007.”

Smith said the elementary schools were not identified on the options as requested. He said some board members might not care if there’s a school in their district but he does.

“I didn’t sit here a few weeks ago and pick and choose where I wanted to be because I’m standing behind my principles,” he said.

Smith said none of the four options meet the criteria.

“There’s at least two in every option that is either under or over,” he said. “So none of the four options meet the criteria of the 10 percent.”

He’s also concerned about candidates filing before the June deadline, Smith said.

“If we change something, they may be waiting to file here sometime this week in May…if we change something, it may keep them from running,” he said. “As I stated in a previous board meeting, we didn’t want to be seen as interfering with an election when the board had a vacancy not too long ago and in my opinion, this is basically about the same thing.”

Smith said it could be done after the election is done.

“I find it very odd that it’s been known for these 15 years and it wasn’t important two years, we now got to get this fixed immediately,” he said. “Some of my constituents have also told me they keep hearing this ‘smell test thing,’ they think it really stinks.”

Superintendent Michael Rowe said he took offense to that comment.

“I take offense to that Bruce, I really do,” Rowe said. “…when you made the comment that you did not want to use Bluegrass ADD because you were about taxpayer money, I did not believe that. You had no problem being a part of the McKinney School Recovery, starting that up and starting a lawsuit against this district that cost us $10,000. That did not pass a smell test for me and it still doesn’t pass a smell test.”

Smith was listed as a director of the McKinney School Recovery Incorporated Board, which sued the Lincoln County School District following the board’s vote to close McKinney Elementary. The Kentucky Department of Education approved the closure. A 2021 ruling from the Franklin County Circuit Court stated that the LCBOE was within the board’s power and authority to close McKinney Elementary.

Smith said Rowe turned him into the Attorney General and the office ruled he had the right to ask questions.

“I did that based upon legal counsel,” Rowe said.

Chairman Smith said the group was getting off topic.

“So does option 3 not meet the 10 percent?” Lane asked.

New said Option 3 meets the 10 percent threshold for all of the districts except for District 1, which would be 183 under the threshold, and District 5 which would be 7 over.

“Of the ones we did, it was as close as we had gotten to that threshold,” New said. “The threshold, my understanding, and I’m not a lawyer, that is a goal that is tested to prove that it would work. So the question would be ‘did you make an effort to get within that and also meet the restrictions of trying to stay as close as possible to the existing precincts?…”

Lane asked Bruce Smith if the board waited until 2023 would he be interested in Option 3.

“As I said earlier, I’m going to stand behind my principles. I would like to do what others did in here a few weeks ago, pick and choose, too. But I’m not going to do it because I’m standing behind my principle that this is being perceived wrong out in the community,” Smith said.

None of the four options meet the criteria, Smith said.

“It can be in December. It can be in November after the election,” he said. Smith said he’s not in favor of any of the options.

New said the way to meet the criteria exactly would mean splitting up other precincts and that could cause problems for the Lincoln County Clerk’s Office.

Photo submitted
A map shows the current boundary lines for Lincoln County Board of Education members. green represents District 1; orange represents District 2; yellow represents District 3; purple represents District 4; and blue represents District 5.

The Lincoln County Board of Education approved a new district boundary map for board members. Photo courtesy of Lincoln County Public Schools.

Of the four options, Option 3 gets as close as possible to the 10 percent threshold and splits up the least amount of precincts, New said.

Lane asked if the 10 percent threshold was a requirement or a guideline.

Board Attorney Jonathan Baker said it’s not a “hard and fast” rule.

“Your goal is to get there as close as you can to the 10 percent, as Mr. New said, without there being a fraudulent reason that it’s not,” Baker said.

New said Bluegrass ADD has no political agenda or knowledge of candidate filings.

“I don’t know where people live that might be thinking about running…” New said.

Meek said if the public perceives the discussion as political, why not wait until after the election.

Sneed made a motion to accept Option 3, effective Jan. 1, 2023.

“I think it would be best to do it in December,” Lane said. “I do agree that for the fairness of the county that this is probably what we need to do. I’m also in favor of not doing this prior to the election simply for the fact that it gives people in the community fairness across the board. The agenda is absolutely not to manipulate an election but to make it fair for other board members who may decide to run.”

Sneed amended the motion with an effective date of Dec. 1, 2022.

The board voted 3 to 2, with Meek and Bruce Smith voting against the motion.