Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

January 9, 2013

Fairview board to drop tax

Mike James
The Independent

WESTWOOD — Faced with a probable drubbing at the polls, the Fairview Board of Education has signaled it will kill the 3 percent utility tax it enacted last month.

Fairview Superintendent Bill Musick sent a notice to that effect to Boyd County Clerk Debbie Jones Tuesday.

The one-paragraph notice announces the board’s intention to rescind the tax at its Jan. 28 meeting.

“I think it is very wise of the board to make that decision,” said Melvin “Joe” Weis, an opponent of the tax. Weis was on the five-member committee that in three days gathered 366 valid signatures — more than twice as many as necessary — on petitions to put the tax on the ballot.

“This community was definitely going to vote against it,” Weis said.

The tax would have been assessed on water, sewer, electric, gas, telephone, cell phone, cable and satellite and according to estimates would have brought between $300,000 and $700,000 into district coffers each year.

The district had hoped to use the tax proceeds, along with state funding and borrowed money, to build a new high school.

Musick said board members have told him they will rescind the tax. “They respect the wishes of the community and they don’t want to spend the money for an election,” he said.

The district would have to pay for the special election, which Jones has estimated would cost between $6,000 and $7,000.

Musick said the board acted in the best interest of the district’s children but that taxes “are a touchy subject.”

“The board is trying to do what’s best for children. They weren’t asking for any more than anyone else has. We just want to be on an even keel with everyone else.”

Fairview is one of 13 in the state that don’t already levy the tax.

Killing the tax puts a crimp in long-range plans for replacement or complete renovation of the high school or for construction of a vocational school, but doesn’t cripple the district, Musick said. “We’re not in a panic mode. We have money in the bank. We are financially solid ... our test scores and graduation rates speak for themselves.”

The petition drive and its result were more a disappointment than a surprise, according to Musick. Voters turned away the same levy in 2005 and 2007, but Musick and the board had hoped minds would change over time, he said.

He had hoped the opening of Boyd County’s new $42 million high school, built mostly with state money after voters in that district approved a tax increase, would make an impression.

“We would love to see new buildings but it has to be weighed against what the community can afford,” Weis said.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.