KY Supreme Court makes ruling in JCPS 9.5% property tax increase case

A years long legal battle between the Jefferson County clerk, Jefferson County Public Schools and a group of taxpayers has ended.
Published: Jun. 16, 2022 at 6:12 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - A years long legal battle between the Jefferson County clerk, Jefferson County Public Schools and a group of taxpayers has ended.

A Kentucky Supreme Court judge ruled Thursday JCPS’s 9.5% tax hike the board put in place in 2020 should stand.

“What a great day this is for the children of this community,” Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio said.

The legal battle began in May 2020 when the Jefferson County Board of Education approved a seven-cent tax increase, which is around $70 extra a year in property taxes on a $100,000 home.

Since the tax increase was above 4%, state law allowed taxpayers to petition that the hike be put on the November 2021 ballot so voters could decide whether they wanted to pay the additional taxes. The group, “No JCPS Tax Hike” racked up more than 40,000 signatures in a petition, which was enough for the county clerk to put tax increase on the ballot.

However, the Jefferson County Teachers Association analyzed the petition and found many of the signatures were duplicates or contained inaccurate information, therefore arguing to a judge the petition should be thrown out.

In October 2020, a Jefferson County judge ruled in the district’s favor and said the website the group of petitioners used to collect the signatures was not secure. He agreed the duplicate and inaccurate signatures should be thrown out and allowed JCPS to proceed with the tax increase without a vote on the ballot.

Part of the ruling said the district could collect the tax revenue but had to place the money in an escrow account until the legal battle was over.

The group of taxpayers appealed the judge’s ruling, but a Kentucky Supreme Court Judge upheld the initial ruling Thursday, ending the drawn out case, allowing JCPS to spend the $74.5 million in revenue the tax increase generated.

The district plans to spend the money on racial equity efforts, additional resources for choice zone, or high-needs schools, and renovating and building facilities.

“This district can start to tackle in a systemic way all across this district in renovation, building of new facilities, supporting our athletic facilities at our high schools and middle schools and making sure our students have the facilities they deserve,” Pollio said.

Pollio told reporters during a Thursday afternoon press conference the district has tried to raise taxes above 4% once before in the 1980s, but the effort failed miserably.

“The community, I believe we’ve kind of reaped what we’ve sowed on that because we can look at other communities, Lexington who I believe has (raised taxes above 4%) two times since then, we can drive around their facilities and see the difference,” Pollio said. “We can drive around Oldham County who has done this as well and look at their facilities and see the difference.”

Pollio said building and renovating facilities will take years, but the additional tax revenue helps the district “take the step that had to be taken that’s never been taken before.”

“We will be good stewards of this money,” Pollio said. “We will make sure that it is impacting the things we promised this community that it will do, we will make sure that this becomes the mark that we look back on at JCPS and say this was a pivotal moment in changing our district.”

To read the entire Supreme Court ruling, click here.

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