Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

January 8, 2013

Fairview tax to go on ballot

WESTWOOD — Opponents of a 3 percent utilities tax in the Fairview school district have delivered enough petition signatures to put the issue to voters, Boyd County Clerk Debbie Jones said Monday.

A committee gathering the signatures delivered 395 of them Monday morning and deputy clerks had verified 366 by the end of the day, according to Jones.

That is more than twice as many as needed to put the tax on the ballot, she said.

Jones said she will schedule the election for Feb. 19. State law requires the election to be at least 35 days, but not more than 45 days after the signatures are verified.

The single-issue election will cost between $6,000 and $7,000, and the district will have to pay the cost, she said.

To qualify for an election, the petitions had to have at least 10 percent of the number of voters from the district who cast ballots in the most recent presidential election. That comes to 147 signatures.

The school board, which enacted the tax in December, can either go ahead with the election or rescind the levy. Reached Monday afternoon, board member Jeff Preston said it is too early to say what the board will do.

“I’m sure we will take a strong economic look at the cost of an election,” he said.

Preston said the board’s top priority for money raised under the levy would be building a new high school. The tax would cost the average resident $150 annually and would bring in between $300,000 and $700,000 per year, according to officials.

Preston said opponents have circulated “a lot of misinformation” about the levy. Chief among his complaints is the claim that the 3 percent tax is actually a 21 percent tax because it would be levied on seven utilities.

The tax bill would be 3 percent of the combined sum of utility bills — gas, telephone, cell phone, water, electric, cable and dish TV.

“It’s no different from when you go shopping and pay 6 percent on your total purchases, not 18 percent because you went to three different stores.”

With the tax the district would be able to borrow enough to build a $20 million school, he said. “There’s nothing else we could spend it on if we obligated ourselves to build a new school,” he said.

People in Westwood can’t afford the tax, said Melvin “Joe” Weis, a member of the petition committee. “(Petition gatherers) were all saddened by what we saw, people in dire straits, people who find it hard to put food on the table, much less pay more taxes,” he said.

The committee took three days to gather the signatures, he said. “People were well-informed and expecting us when we came ... I think people are very firmly against the proposition to raise their taxes.”

Fairview passed the same levy in 2005 and 2007 and both times voters shot it down. The district is one of 13 in the state that don’t have a utility tax. Many districts that do have the tax, including Russell and Ashland, enacted them in the late 1970s when voters didn’t have the recall option.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or

(606) 326-2652.

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