LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Greater Louisville Inc., the metro region’s chamber of commerce, threw its support Monday behind the proposed Jefferson County Public Schools property tax increase.
JCPS is seeking a 7-cent property tax hike that would roughly equal an extra $70 a year for a $100,000 home.
The Jefferson County Board of Education approved the tax increase in May, with leaders saying that the roughly $51 million in new revenue would largely go to building and renovating schools, and to supporting the district’s most disadvantaged students.
“GLI recognizes the struggles our business community finds itself in with the uncertainty of the global pandemic,” Sarah Davasher-Wisdom, president and CEO of GLI, said Monday in a statement. “We join JCPS in this pursuit to advance equity and ensure proper investments are being made to close the student achievement gap.”
Kentucky school boards are allowed under state law to raise property taxes enough to boost revenue by 4% without being subject to a recall.
The JCPS proposal would increase district revenue by over 9%, and a “No JCPS Tax Hike” group that formed in the spring eventually gathered more than 38,000 signatures on a petition to place the tax increase as a question on November ballots.
More: If voters don’t pass JCPS tax increase, Louisville taxes will still rise. Here’s why But after an outside analysis found thousands of questionable or duplicate signatures, the
The court battle is ongoing, but Jefferson County voters will in any case see the tax question on Nov. 3, as ballots had to be printed by last Friday and then mailed out starting Tuesday.
Whether any votes on that tax question end up counting or not will hinge on the outcome of the court case, which has another hearing set for Oct. 9.
Over nearly a year, GLI said it had “convened multiple informational meetings with its membership to discuss increased revenue proposals aimed at supporting the school district’s top investment priorities for students.”
“Recently, GLI convened its Board of Directors and a majority of business leaders voiced support for the proposed ballot initiative and expressed the need for resources to be prioritized based on equity and student success,” a news release stated.
Pollio and other JCPS leaders have noted in past discussions that the district’s current property tax rate, 73.6 cents for $100 of assessed value, is among the lowest in the area.
An increase to 80.6 cents would bring it closer to peer districts, like Fayette County Public Schools, that serve large groups of disadvantaged students living in poverty.
To support a new student assignment plan that would allow West End students to go to school closer to home, JCPS leaders have said they need millions to both build three new schools in the West End and provide resources for the students who attend them.
“We are at a crossroads in this community. We are going to have to make a decision,” Pollio said last week during a Louisville Forum discussion on the tax increase. “In the next decade, we will be closing and condemning schools in the middle of the year because our community is not willing to fund those.”
Theresa Camoriano, leader of the No JCPS Tax Hike group, and other opponents have said JCPS is a top-heavy organization that should better manage its existing funds and not raise taxes during a pandemic.
Camoriano said during last week’s Louisville Forum event that district leaders have not used additional money “wisely for many, many years.”
“They’ve let buildings go to pot. They haven’t maintained their buildings,” Camoriano said. “They haven’t done what they should be doing in terms of instruction or construction.”
Both JCPS and the No JCPS Tax Hike group have begun raising money to promote their beliefs regarding the tax increase.
JCPS signed a $575,000 contract with a Danville-based public relations firm to pitch the increase to voters.
But Pollio noted that a nonprofit group, dubbed “Yes 4 JCPS,” has been set up to cover the costs associated with the push for the tax increase.
Yes 4 JCPS, registered as a 501(c)(4) advocacy group, is led by a 12-member steering committee made up of business, community and education leaders in Louisville.
Davasher-Wisdom said in her statement that GLI is urging the JCPS board and administration “to dedicate resources for deferred maintenance of facilities, new construction of schools, investments in career and technical education, and additional support for vulnerable student populations.”
“All of these priorities must be accompanied by cost-saving measures and increased efficiencies in order to maximize every penny for student needs,” Davasher-Wisdom said. “GLI looks forward to working with JCPS and sharing how the district can pursue these investment priorities.”
Reach Billy Kobin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/subscribe.