Scott County school board drops proposed tax hike for new high school

jwarren@herald-leader.comJanuary 29, 2014 

Students walked to their buses after class last week at Scott County High School in Georgetown, which houses grades 10 to 12. Ninth-graders are in a separate building.

LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER

The Scott County Board of Education has backed off a controversial tax increase intended to help generate money for a second high school.

The board voted 3-2 Tuesday night to rescind the tax boost, board member Haley Conway confirmed Wednesday. It would have raised property taxes from 47.2 cents to 57.84 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

Scott County residents who opposed the tax increase already had forced a referendum on the levy in the November general election.

Nevertheless, Conway said, school board members plan to proceed with plans for the new school, which is intended to ease overcrowding at Scott County High School. Without the tax increase, it's going to take longer, he said.

"We were looking at the possibility of starting construction later this year," Conway said Wednesday. "Now, it might be three to five years away. We're just going to have to be more creative."

The tax increase, approved in November, was designed to strengthen Scott County Schools' bonding capacity and speed construction of the school.

Many residents argued, however, that the tax increase was too steep. In December, they submitted a petition with more than 3,800 signatures — more than enough to force a referendum on the tax in November.

Conway said that school board members had found some deficiencies in the petition, but that the board would have had to sue the county clerk to overturn the petition. He said that was something board members didn't want to do.

One of the odd twists in the tax controversy was that a Scott County citizens group which has been agitating for a new high school for two years found itself opposing the tax increase that was intended to make that school possible.

Rick Thompson, a leader in the group calling itself Scott County High School Too Big, said organization members couldn't go along with the proposed boost because they thought it was excessive.

"The board got too greedy," he said Wednesday.

Thompson said his group still thinks a second high school is urgently needed.

"We have reason to believe that what will happen now is what should have happened to begin with," he said. "The board will do its due diligence ... and come up with a more reasonable tax increase."

Jim Warren: (859) 231-3255. Twitter: @heraldleader.

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