Ky. Supreme Court Overturns JCPS Property Tax Hike Challenge – 89.3 WFPL News Louisville

The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a motion to overturn a Jefferson County public school tax increase was null and void.

JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio said in a statement that the decision will facilitate more investment and is a “victory for the children of Jefferson County.”

Members of the Louisville Tea Party attempted to recall the 9.5% property tax increase in 2020 with a question on the ballot. The Jefferson County School Board passed the tax increase in May 2020. It is an additional 7 cents per $100 of assessed value. This means that someone who owns a $200,000 home would see their bill go up by $140.

Initially, the Jefferson County Clerk’s Office certified that there were enough opponent signatures to place a recall question on the ballot in the 2020 general election.

But weeks before the election, a judge ruled that the opponents’ online petition was invalid because organizers had altered voter information. The judge also found that the county clerk’s office certified hundreds of duplicate signatures. The duplicate signatures and erroneous and altered entries were discovered by a consultant hired by the Jefferson County Teachers Association, the teachers’ union.

Tax opponents then appealed to the state’s highest court. But in Thursday’s ruling, the seven justices sided with the JCPS and the teachers’ union, which favor the increase.

The judges said the lack of security measures on the electronic recall petition coupled with the edits made by committee members invalidated the petition.

“In cases such as this, the right of the public to vote on a tax reminder is rendered void by the insufficient demand for reminder occasioned by the amendments and the lack of required information,” the judges wrote. in their decision.

“We hold the complete absence of any security measure to ensure that an electronic signature has indeed been made by the purported signatory cancels the petition.”

The district has levied and collected the tax increase in question for the past two years, but has held a portion of the revenue in escrow pending a final decision from the courts. Thursday’s decision means JCPS can withdraw $74.5 million from the escrow and start spending it.

“The impact we can have on our children is monumental because of this,” Pollio said at a Thursday afternoon news conference.

The superintendent said he planned to spend the funds on very poor schools, extending learning time and improving facilities. The district has been using federal pandemic relief dollars for many of these initiatives since 2020. Pollio said revenue from increased taxes will become crucial to continuing these efforts once federal funds expire in 2024.

The court’s decision means the district’s link capacity nearly doubled overnight, from $265 million to $525 million. This means that JCPS will be able to borrow twice as much to spend on facilities. Pollio said this will allow the district to move forward with long overdue improvements to school buildings.

While the decision is a win for the district, JCPS is expected to face more tax reminder requests in the future if it wants to raise taxes again.

In 2021, the GOP-led General Assembly dramatically reduced the number of signatures needed to get a tax reminder question on the ballot. Previously, tax opponents had to collect a number of signatures equal to 10% of eligible voters in a constituency. For JCPS, it was around 35,500 signatures. The new law only requires 5,000 signatures for JCPS.

“Members of the petition committee are very disappointed with the decision of the Kentucky Supreme Court upholding the JCPS tax hike,” Louisville Tea Party President Theresa Camoriano wrote in an emailed statement. “However, we believe we are much further ahead than we would have been had we not challenged the tax hike.”

At Thursday’s press conference, Pollio called the new law “problematic.” He said it could reduce efforts to raise more local funds, at the same time as state lawmakers cut or leave fixed state funding for public schools, also known as SEEK.

“If we’re not going to get the SEEK dollars funded, then the superintendents of this Commonwealth have no choice but to ask local residents to fund schools the way they should be funded,” he said. -he declares.

This story has been updated.

Penny D. Jackson