Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

January 19, 2013

Fairview tax opponents to fight suit

WESTWOOD — Opponents of a utilities tax in the Fairview school district plan to file a legal challenge to a lawsuit attempting to halt an election to decide on the fate of the levy.

The committee that circulated petitions that triggered an election on the tax hasn’t taken action yet but is shopping for a lawyer, said Melvin “Joe” Weis, a member of the five-person committee.

Weis wouldn’t comment further on legal plans but said community opposition appears to be solidifying since the Fairview school board filed its suit Tuesday alleging irregularities in the petition process and asking for an injunction halting the election.

“I think this has incensed people. They’re so mad (the board) is trying to take away their right to vote. That’s what we’re hearing most of all,” Weis said.

Since the suit was filed, the committee has received offers of donations toward legal fees and volunteers to drive voters to the polls, he said.

“We’re not going to let them beat us down like this,” Weis said. “We can’t let somebody bully us like this.”

Whether a judge will grant the board’s injunction request won’t be known until the board files a motion asking him to do so and that has not yet been done, according to John Vincent, the board’s attorney.

School board chairman John Burke could not be reached for comment at his cell phone number and a person answering the phone at his home said he was at work.

Board member Jeff Preston declined to comment and referred all inquiries to the board’s attorney.

The board enacted the 3 percent tax on all utilities, including gas, electric, water, sewer, telephone, satellite and cable, in December, but state law provides for putting the issue to voters if enough of them sign petitions.

After a final count of signatures, there were more than twice as many as needed.

But in its lawsuit the board alleged that opponents submitted signatures of people who didn’t actually sign, used inaccurate or ambiguous language, and misrepresented the effects of the levy.

The election is scheduled for Feb. 19. The board has said it wants the tax so it can fix and expand the high school.

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

(606) 326-2652.

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