Scott County group opposes tax increase to pay for second high school

jwarren@herald-leader.comNovember 13, 2013 

A group of Scott County residents began circulating a petition Wednesday opposing a large property tax increase to help pay for a new high school, just hours after the Scott County Board of Education approved it.

"We're already rolling," said businessman Charles "Chuck" Bradley, a leader in the opposition.

Bradley said opponents are confident they can quickly secure the 2,081 signatures needed to put the tax increase on the ballot for voters to consider.

However, that referendum might not be held until November 2014.

The tax increase, which school board members approved Tuesday night, would raise Scott County property taxes from 47.2 cents to 57.84 cents per $100 assessed valuation.

The move is intended to strengthen the Scott County Schools' bonding capacity, speeding construction of a second high school in the fast-growing county.

Another school is needed because the existing Scott County High School is badly overcrowded, supporters argue.

Bradley said he agrees that Scott County needs another high school. But he said it could be built without such a large tax increase.

The Scott County School Board already had approved a 4-percent property tax increase, the maximum allowed by Kentucky law without the risk of a recall petition.

Opponents argue that the two increases together amount to a 27.68-percent increase over the old tax rate.

Wednesday's recall development marks another twist in a story that began early last year when a Scott County citizens' group organized around a call for a second high school. The group — calling itself Scott County High School Too Big To Succeed — has been pushing for a new school ever since.

However, the citizens group now has come out against the tax increase for that new school.

In a statement on its "TooBig Blog" Saturday, the group said it "reluctantly and disgustedly" backed the school's board's original proposal for a 9-cent tax increase. But the group now opposes the increase because the board "got greedy" and went for a larger increase, the posting says.

Scott County School Board member Haley Conway said that if the petition drive is successful, the tax increase question probably wouldn't go on the county ballot until next year's general election.

He said the school board will not ask for a special election on the question, which apparently would preclude a vote before November 2014.

Conway says he'd be happy to see the proposed increase go before the voters.

"Personally, I want it to go to a vote, and let the community decide if they want another high school or not," he said. "I don't want to pay any more taxes myself. But you have to have a sense of community. And what's best for the community is to have the best education possible for the next generation."

Bradley argued, however, that the board is over-reaching with the proposed tax.

"We all agree that we need a school," he said. "But I think the board saw this need, they saw a group of local people saying they want a school ... and they thought we can do it all right now. That's why it's so big."

Bradley noted that Georgetown officials expect an increase in revenue from the net profits tax, in which the school system would share; he said that if that growth continued, the school system should be able to afford a new school without a large tax boost.

Conway blamed the recall movement mainly on "some hardcore Tea Party people."

"They want a new school, but they want somebody else to pay for it," he said. "We've looked at our options, and right now this is the only option we have. If there is another, I'm more than willing to look at it."

Jim Warren: (859) 231-3255.

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