Tuesday, March 4, 2003

Increase in school tax vote is today

By William Croyle
Enquirer contributor

FORT THOMAS - $1.5 million for Fort Thomas schools is on the line today as voters decide in a special election whether to approve an 11 percent tax increase.

Fort Thomas voters will vote at the same precincts as in a general election, which are open from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m., with the exception of precinct "J."

That precinct, which includes some neighborhoods of Fort Thomas that border Newport and Woodlawn, is in the Campbell County School District.

"We are expecting a very large turnout," said Campbell County Clerk Jack Snodgrass. "Anybody standing in line after 6 p.m. can vote, but they must be in line by 6 p.m."

A vote for the issue will increase the school property tax rate in the city by 11 percent, from $7 per $1,000 of assessed valuation to $7.77, or from $700 to $777 on a $100,000 home.

The increase to the school tax rate would increase the city's total real property tax rate from $14.43 per $1,000 of assessed value to $15.20.That's a 5 percent overall increase and a jump in the annual tax bill from $1,443 to $1,520 on a $100,000 home.

Taxes on the average Fort Thomas home - priced at $150,440 - would go up by about $116 a year, from $2,171 to $2,287.

It would raise $1.5 million this year for the Fort Thomas Independent School District, which would use the money primarily for teacher salaries.

A public vote on the proposed rate increase is required because it is higher than the 4 percent per year increase that Kentucky laws allow school boards to approve without voter input.

Fort Thomas, one of the highest-scoring school districts in the state on achievement tests, receives one of the lowest levels of state subsidy for its school district.

That's because the city's $150,440 average home price is assessment is close to double Kentucky's median home value of $86,700.

Since the passage of the Kentucky Education Reform Act in 1990, school districts with higher property valuation have received less state aid.

The Fort Thomas school board approved the tax increase in September, but it was rejected in December by Campbell County Judge Leonard Kopowski, who ruled it was not properly advertised.

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