Filing and petition delay EIS tax rate

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By Brad Bowman

Henry County residents living in the Eminence Independent School District will have to wait for a second billing with the  district’s tax rate.

According to Henry County Clerk Juanita Lashley the Henry County tax bill did not include the district’s tax rate, which needed to be established by Sept. 15 per statute. The Kentucky Revised Statutes rule that any rate more than four percent shall be subject to recall after 45 days.

The Eminence Independent School Board passed their motion for a proposed 7.2-cent tax increase on Aug. 14, an increase of 10.8 percent. With the additional 45 days, the passed levy missed the Sept. 15 deadline. Residents in the school district may not receive their tax bill until November given a recall petition has been submitted.

On Sept. 27, a five-person committee made up of residents living in the EIS district filed a recall petition from Eminence’s voting districts. Based on recall petition requirements, the recall petition had to contain signatures of registered and qualified voters residing in the district and contain a minimum 10 percent of the total number of votes cast in the last presidential election. Based on the criteria, the committee needed 114 votes and acquired about 150.

Eminence resident Justin Atchison is part of the five-person committee.

“We are not against the school system. We are not against the children. We just want  the public to have a chance to vote on the increase,” Atchison said. “We felt that the rate the school was wanting to levy was excessive.”

Atchison said that once the word got out that a petition had started circulating interest piqued.

“We were overwhelmed with phone calls. After the deadline for filing, we had people still contacting us about the petition,” Atchison said. “We felt like we were doing the right thing. We had a lot more than the required number of signatures. We are now waiting on the county clerk to verify it.”

Lashley will verify that each signature belongs to registered voters in the correct district. She has 30 days to verify the petition and will contact both the committee and the school board about her findings. If the clerk finds the petition to be valid, the tax levy could go to a public vote. The EIS Board of Education could nullify the need for a vote if they modify the increase to four percent. The board will have 15 days to do this if the petition is found to be valid.

“I have reason to believe it is not a valid petition,” said Buddy Berry, Eminence Independent School District Superintendent. “I think it is a tough time for anybody. (The tax increase) is the smallest facility tax a taxing district can levy. Every district in our region except for Carroll or Trimble has a nickel or dime levy.”

Berry referred to additional funding strategies passed by                          the Kentucky General Assembly specifically for facility construction. The tax rate is called a Nickel Tax Levy because they are five-cent equivalent taxes.

A five cent equivalent tax may be greater than five cents based off the Support Education Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK) program and the actual tax rate districts levy is larger than a nickel because of it. Money generated by the increase is matched by the state. 

“This money can only be used for expansions and facility renovations,” Berry said. “The tax increase is something the community is by and large for and it will help improve Eminence schools. It is the same facility tax that Henry County passed in 2006. We think Eminence kids deserve the same opportunity as Henry County students.”