LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The Jefferson County Public School board outlined how it would spend the additional $54 million generated each year from a proposed property tax increase the citizens will likely vote on during the November election.
During a special-called meeting Thursday night, the board approved the plan to spend $15 million to build new and renovate old facilities. Another $15 million would go toward support programs for schools with high poverty or the ‘highest-need,’ including efforts to recruit and retain good teachers. The board said $12 million would be spent on racial equity initiatives to eliminate achievement gaps between students. The final $12 million would go toward creating additional student instruction time for those who need it, including after-school and summer programs.
JCPS Superintendent, Dr. Marty Pollio said the board has worked on the spending plan for the past year. Thursday night’s vote solidified that plan and made it official.
“The purpose of this resolution was to show the community our commitment in how we’re going to spend these dollars, and we want to be held accountable for that,” Pollio said.
A group of citizens have petitioned against the tax increase since the board initially approved it in May. Members gathered enough signatures to push the decision to the November ballot so the voters can decide whether to approve the increase. The group told WAVE 3 News JCPS needs to reevaluate how it spends the funds it currently has before it asks for more.
“They’ve been telling us for as long as I can remember, if you give us more money we’ll do a good job, we’ll do a better job,” Theresa Camoriano, who created the ‘JCPS No Tax Hike’ petition said. “They keep getting more money and they never improve.”
Pollio told WAVE 3 News the JCPS board has not approved an equivalent 7-cent tax increase since 1982.
“We have a couple of options here,” Pollio said. “The 2020′s for JCPS can be continuing to do things the same way, closing facilities that need renovation or are condemned, or the 2020′s could be a new opportunity for JCPS, different outcomes for students and we make a better future for our community, and that’s what we’re committed to doing at JCPS.”
A group of community and business leaders called ‘Yes 4 JCPS’ have started advocating for the tax increase and encouraging voters to approve it in November.
Alice Houston, chair of Yes 4 JCPS and CEO of HJI Supply Chain Solutions told WAVE 3 News the tax increase would not only benefit students and teachers but also the future local economy.
“We need to be able to not only attract and retain talented people, we need to be able to develop them,” Houston said. “If you look at many of the successful businesses in Louisville, they were homegrown. The development of our talent is important, and education is fundamental to that.”
Houston said JCPS could have approved a basic, nickel tax increase, but a state statute limits a district from only spending the generated funds on facilities.
“I have been around a lot of Louisville, and we have had many, many plans to bring our kids up,” Houston said. “For me this is the first plan I’ve seen that has been delineated, that is now potentially going to have the funds to fund it and a commitment to fund it for five years, without the funds being diverted.”
The citizens' petition against the tax increase was certified by the Jefferson County Clerk. However, the Jefferson County Teachers Association (JCTA) said it found thousands of alleged errors and duplicate signatures within the petition. The group has presented its findings to a circuit court judge and has another court date scheduled for Oct. 8.
With the tax increase, for every $100,000 a home is worth, the owner would pay around $70 extra a year.