Fayette County Board of Education members unanimously approved a 2.4-cent increase in the county school tax rate on real estate Monday night, to generate a 4 percent revenue boost for the school district.
The action, which is allowed under state law, boosts the property tax rate from the current 62.8 cents per $100 evaluation to 65.2 cents per $100.
The owner of a $100,000 house would pay about $24 more a year in taxes. Rates on personal property and motor vehicles remain unchanged. The increase will affect property taxes that are due this fall.
The portion of property taxes that go to the schools will be about $6 million yearly after the increase, district officials said. Personal property taxes and vehicle taxes bring in about $3 million yearly.
School board members acknowledged that raising the tax rate while the nation's economy is struggling will be unpopular with some people. A few residents spoke against the increase during a public hearing before the school board meeting.
Board Chairman John Price countered that the board's responsibility is to do what is best for children attending schools in the district. He said, "What's best for kids is not necessarily what's best for adults."
Board members argued that the boost is necessary to maintain a strong education system for Lexington's children; attract jobs and industry to the city; and help ensure a brighter future for all.
But the three opponents who spoke at the public hearing called the tax boost unfair and a "burden," especially for retired residents on fixed incomes who have no children in school.
Daniel Greer of Lexington, who described himself as a "Tea Party patriot," cited the Bible and the writings of St. Augustine, saying the property tax as now structured is "unlawful" and violates the Eighth Commandment, which prohibits stealing. Greer argued that requiring him to pay school taxes when he has no children in school amounts to socialism.
Delores Cavins said it was "definitely no time to be raising anybody's taxes." She urged the board to reconsider.
Two residents spoke in favor of the increase.