Education

Fayette school board reverses course, decides not to increase property tax rates

Fayette County Superintendent presents “State of Schools”

Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Manny Caulk presents the 2019 State of Schools address at the Lexington Convention Center.
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Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Manny Caulk presents the 2019 State of Schools address at the Lexington Convention Center.

After much community debate, the Fayette County Public Schools board reversed course Thursday and tentatively decided not to increase property tax rates.

In 2018, the school board approved a total tax rate increase of 6 cents, which included 5 cents dedicated solely to school safety.

For 2018-19, the general tax levy on real and personal property was 81 cents per $100 assessed valuation for real estate and 76 cents per $100 assessed valuation for personal property.

Under a proposal that will be finally voted on Sept. 11, the rate would remain the same.

“For the second time in four years, I’m proud to announce that our Fayette County Board of Education will be able to keep property tax rates flat while still investing in the strategic priorities that are making a difference in the lives of the students and families we serve,” Superintendent Manny Caulk said in a statement.

“The board reevaluated our financial position..and listened to our constituents and we decided to leave tax rates unchanged, “ said school board member Will Nash, who had been against an increase. “I’m pleased with that.”

“Our surplus was a little larger than anticipated, “ said board chair Stephanie Spires. She said the public wanted to better understand the taxes they were paying.

“We thought, ‘let’s hold steady for this year,’” said Spires.

However, she said, as a result of the decision, “We may have to make a couple of cuts, we may have to dip into the fund balance to pay for the Lexmark property” for the new Central Office.

In May, the board voted to move Central Office out of the 93-year-old building at 701 East Main Street and into a 187,000 square foot office building bought from Lexmark on Russell Cave Road for $10 million.

Spires said the board would spend a year looking at priorities and doing some strategic planning to prepare for the future.

No citizens showed up at Thursday’s special board meeting, but at a similar meeting on Aug. 15, opponents to a tax rate increase filled the room. For the 2019-2020 school year, board members were initially proposing a tax levy rate that would have been 81.7 cents per $100 assessed valuation for real estate and 77 cents for personal property.

Meanwhile, Caulk in a statement, said that this school year marks the beginning of his second four-year contract as the superintendent of the Fayette County Public Schools.

“I am proud of the work we have done so far, and I am committed to working with students, employees, families, staff and the community to accomplish even more,” Caulk said.

He explained that in the past two weeks, he has been out of the office while undergoing surgery. “Everything went well and I will return to work on Tuesday,” Caulk said.

He did not describe the nature of the surgery.

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