School district opts for 4 percent increase in taxes

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By Becky Barnes

The Harrison County Board of Education voted unanimously last Thursday evening for a tax hike that will generate 4 percent more revenue for the district’s till.
Board members approved setting the tax rate at 42.9 cents on real and personal property plus .1 cent exonerations for a total of 43.0 cents per $100 of assessed property. The district expects to receive $293,691 more revenue than last year.
“There’s a financial clip we’re getting to face down the road,” said Superintendent Andy Dotson.
Dotson and Julie Asher, school district financial officer, explained that the state’s contribution to teacher retirement, particularly health insurance, has been drastically cut.
“That places a huge burden on the school district,” Dotson said, noting that 10 years ago the local districts paid nothing toward retired teacher health insurance.
The district’s required match for classified personnels retirement will also increase from 13.5 percent in 2008-09 to 19.55 percent in 2012-13. This increase amounts to $257,975 that the district is responsible for per year.
“The required match by the district for the Teachers Retirement System has increased by 1 percent in the last three years, costing the district an additional $125,000 per year. It has already been approved by the Legislature to increase another 2 percent over the next three years.  This will be an additional $235,000 per year added to the increase already in place.  This means between both retirement systems for classified and certified employees, the district is currently paying an additional $382,975 each year. In three more years, the yearly cost will have increased over $600,000 per year,” the administrators stated in a prepared presentation for the board.
Asher said the state had been borrowing from the teacher retirement annuity to keep the insurance solvent. However, it ultimately raised the employee contribution as well as the district’s input.
Dotson said the district is also expecting a $100,000 reduction in SEEK funding.
Another area of anticipated cuts is in the amount the district receives for several grant-supported programs such as after school tutoring, school safety, textbooks, gifted and talented instruction, Family Resource/Youth Service Centers, professional development and class size reduction.
Dotson said the district will have to pick up the difference, which amounts to about $300,000 less than eight years ago.
“We have received no funding for textbooks since school year 2009-10,” the administrators stated.
Dotson and Asher also noted in their presentation that other operating costs have also increased. One example was the cost of diesel fuel for buses.
The district spent $251,334 for diesel fuel in 2011-12, which was a $40,000 increase over the previous year and a $90,000 increase from the year before that.
Dotson also noted that Harrison County ranked 139 out of 173 school districts in tax rates. Eighty percent of Kentucky’s districts had higher tax rates in 2011, Dotson said.
The board also approved a 50 cent tax rate for each $100 of assessed motor vehicle value.