Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

December 29, 2012

Fairview petitioners seek tax vote

Signatures must be gathered by Feb. 11

Carrie Stambaugh
The Independent

CATLETTSBURG — A petition has been started to place the utility tax levied this week by the Fairview Independent Schools Board of Education before voters.

Petitioners have until Feb. 11 to gather the needed signatures to trigger a special election.

On Wednesday the board of education unanimously passed the three percent utility tax. If the tax goes into effect, it will be levied on all utilities, including water, sewer, electric, gas, phones, cable and satellite for every resident in the district.

The tax is expected to bring in between $300,000 and $700,000 a year, according to school officials. The revenue will be used to further rehabilitate facilities.

Boyd County Clerk Debbie Jones said an affidavit was signed early on Friday by five Fairview district residents who will be responsible for the petition process. They are Melvin “Joe” Weis, Brenda Weis, Bill Coburn, Thomas Grubb and Robert Bowen.

“They took the oath to abide by the statues gathering these signatures and they have been advised of that,” said Jones. “They are responsible for circulating this petition.”

Jones said the petition must bear the signatures of 147 qualified voters within the boundary of the district to trigger a special election on the issue. Voters in three full precincts and three partial precincts are eligible to sign the petition. All voters in the Fairview, Westwood and Buckley precincts may sign along with some voters in the Millseat, Hoods and Central precincts.

The petition asks: Are you in favor of the holding of an election or referendum to recall the utility tax or levy adopted by the Fairview Board of Education? It will be a yes or no question on the ballot, said Jones.

If enough signatures are gathered and verified to trigger an election, the school board can decide to rescind the levy or go forward with a vote. If a special election is held it will be set for sometime in mid to late March, according to Jones.

The school board is responsible for paying the cost of the election, which will cost thousands of dollars, said Jones.

Board Chairman John Burke said officials expected a petition. “That is their right,” he said. “They are going to get the petition signed and we’ll go forward at that point.”

Burke said he had been speaking with several board members about holding an educational hearing to get more information to district residents and taxpayers about the levy. No date has been set, but Burke said he expected to get in touch with other BOE members in the coming days about holding the session.

The board, he said, is firm in its conviction that the tax is necessary.

 “We don’t have the revenue coming in from the state,” said Burke. “Our student body is growing every year and the school is falling apart and we need a plan. We have to have some work done to the school. We are thinking that this tax levy will also give us more bonding capacity, and hopefully we can build a new high school. That is our goal.”

Fairview passed the same levy in 2005 and 2007, but both times it was recalled by voters. The district is one of only 13 in the state that do not already levy the utility tax. Many districts, including Russell and Ashland, installed utility taxes in the late 1970s when voters were not able to recall it, Fairview district officials said on Wednesday.

CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at Cousteau@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2653.