JCPS discuss property tax increase for district improvements

JCPS discussing property tax increase for district improvements
The school board's next order of business is discussing raising property taxes in Jefferson County. (Source: WAVE 3 News File)
The school board's next order of business is discussing raising property taxes in Jefferson County. (Source: WAVE 3 News File)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Officials with Jefferson County Public Schools put the brakes on a complete state takeover of the district.

Monday, after a month of back and forth, the school board voted to accept a settlement offer from the Kentucky Department of Education.

The settlement states over the next 15 days, JCPS and the state must come up with a "Corrective Action Plan." That plan will be designed to fix the shortcomings in an audit of the district the state released in April.

JCPS is also required to hire an internal auditor, whose sole job will be to investigate complaints laid out against the district.

In 2020, a new audit of the district will be conducted.

The board's 4-to-3 split on the issue has some people concerned and others hopeful that the state and JCPS can work together for better schools.

For now, the Jefferson County Teachers Association believes it's a reasonable agreement.

"This is not a perfect plan, but it does preserve local control and in the end that's going to be good for kids," JCTA President Brent McKim said.

Fixing problems identified in the state audit and avoiding a long court battle are reasons four board members voted for it. The three against, cited loopholes that could be exploited by Interim Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis' veto power.

"A trojan horse way of taking over student assignment and taking over issues related to finance and funding," is how board member Chris Brady explained it after Monday night's meeting.

A public hearing was scheduled for Thursday to talk about a recommended property tax increase for next year. Just after 8 p.m., JCPS unanimously voted to increase the property taxes for the 20-18-2019 school year. Home owners will begin seeing the changes in October.

The state suggested JCPS raise property taxes to renovate schools and impact programs. So the board is proposing a $0.02 increase, which amounts to an extra $41 per year for a $200,000 home.

That would generate about $20 million for the district.

"It affects people in a big way," Louisville real estate agent Steve Adams said.

Adams doesn't believe it will hurt area home sales, but he said taxpayers will be hit in more ways than one.

"I never dismiss when someone's payment is changed through taxes, in this particular case or homeowners insurance or whatever it may be, no one's going to be happy," Adams said.

If approved, Donna Garrett, a former JCPS teacher hopes the money lands where it's needed most.

"Early Childhood Education -- if Jefferson County is going to have that program they need to put money into it," she said. "They've got teacher assistants out there making $14,000 a year and that's sad."

KDE will hold a special meeting Wednesday to discuss the settlement agreement with JCPS.

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