JCPS mulls tax-rate cut that still would deliver $32 million more

Published: Aug. 22, 2016 at 9:19 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 23, 2016 at 2:34 AM EDT
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EASTERN JEFFERSON COUNTY, KY (WAVE) - Two-year-old Adrian Knight and his older sister are the two major reasons that their grandmother, retired teacher Bev Anderson, has paid the premium to be only several houses away in fast-growing, hot-selling Norton Commons.

"He probably won't attend elementary school here, but it's a great new school," Anderson told WAVE 3 News on Monday. "I think we need to allot more of our taxes to schools if we can. If we can afford it."

Norton Commons was not among the subdivisions or suburbs Jefferson County's Property Valuation Administrator re-appraised as part of its four-year cycle this year.

More than 88,000 home or business owners in St. Matthews, Jeffersontown, Hikes Point, Douglass Hills, Lyndon, Hurstbourne and Prospect underwent reassessment. Some 67,000 saw their appraisals rise -- an average of 11 percent for homeowners and 15 percent for businesses.

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"Do you know anybody who doesn't complain about tax bills?" asked Gordon Bramer, 75, of Prospect. "Nobody wants to pay their tax bills."

The reappraisals could net Jefferson County Public Schools an additional $32.62 million this tax year, even if JCPS lowers the overall tax rate from 71 cents to 70.8 cents per $100 of assessed value, district figures show. The reduction would set JCPS' share of taxes on a $200,000 home at about $1,416, about $4 lower than the current rate.

The proposed reduction is to remain in compliance with Kentucky law to limit increases in overall property tax bills, in part to protect those on fixed incomes. Increases larger than 4 percent would be subject to voter referendum. The law, known as House Bill 44, was designed to ensure that homeowners wouldn't be forced to sell properties whose value increase made the tax liability unaffordable.

"I see it both ways," said Bramer, who saw the appraisal jump by $100,000 on the home be bought out of foreclosure and began remodeling last year. "I know a lot of people who are in the remodeling businesses, and they're busy. If you're good, you're busy."

Bramer and his wife are living in their work-in-progress. They've got no plans to sell it for a profit once their renovations are complete.

"I can see the economy going up," he said. "I can afford it. It's reasonable. Everything is going up but my mailbox money. My retirement, I haven't had an increase in that in like, three years?"

>> Mobile users: Tap here to watch Gordon Boyd's video report

Monday's special meeting at the Van Hoose Education Center offered taxpayers an opportunity to weigh in on the proposed reduction and to review how JCPS arrived at its figures. Only three community members showed up but expressed concern that the board wasn't considering raising the rate.

"Shouldn't JCPS be sounding the alarm? And asking for a drastically higher property assessment?" asked one man, who raised concerns about teacher pension. Chris Harmer, from the Fellowship of Reconciliation's Louisville chapter, said the board should consider funding programs that work toward closing the achievement gap.

The Board is expected to vote on the proposal Tuesday.

Bev Anderson taught at independent St. Francis School in Goshen for more than 20 years.

"The school taxes are worth every penny that I pay," she said. "We need to support all the children coming up, and many people cannot afford to go to parochial or independent schools. And we need to support those people who are educated, too. They're going to be part of our society and they need a good education."

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