September 23, 2013

Citizens weigh in on school tax increase

Superintendent cites unfunded mandates as cause

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — The Laurel County Board of Education met staggering opposition Wednesday evening during a public hearing to consider setting the fiscal year 2014 property tax rate for real estate and personal property at a four percent revenue increase over FY 2013.

The hearing opened with words from Board Chairman Joe Schenkenfelder and District Superintendent Doug Bennett.

“The purpose of this hearing is to hear comments from you for or against a school tax,” Schenkenfelder said.

“The most important thing tonight is for anyone who wants to speak gets the opportunity to and that all speakers are heard,” said Larry Bryson, attorney for the Board of Education.

 “Laurel County and the children of Laurel County deserve the best and they should never have to play second fiddle to anyone,” Bennett said. “ Any worthy endeavor requires adequate fundamental resources.  This is precisely the thing that has brought us all together tonight.  The fact is that our state and federal government have failed to adequately fund the education of Laurel County students as well as the education of students across the Commonwealth.  It’s certainly not due to a lack of taxing on the federal and state level.”

Bennett went on to explain why the four percent revenue increase is needed.

 “Our revenues have decreased $1.1 million when you compare fiscal year 2012-2013 actual against 2013 - 2014,” Bennett said. “ Our revenues have decreased, our expenditures have increased and continue to increase for our district.  Expenses have increased not by any fault or mismanagement of the Laurel County School District.  In fact, the Laurel County School District has managed to cut our fiscal year 2012 - 2013 expenditures by $939,000.” 

According to Bennett, the problem is the state and federal governments are adding expenditures faster than the district can cut them.

“We have been told on numerous occasions that local school districts will not receive additional revenue to cover these additional expenses,” Bennett said.  “The rallying cry in the bills that are proposed and come from Frankfort are a collection of unfunded mandates asking school districts and school staff to do much more with no additional funding.”

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