• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Committee wants voters to decide on high school tax

A recently formed recall petition committee wants the voters of Woodford County – and not the Woodford County Board of Education – to decide if local taxpayers should pay an additional 5.5 cents per $100 of assessed property value to cover the cost of building a new high school.

“The economy’s doing better, but there are a lot of people on fixed incomes,” committee member Paul Stahler said.

“…I’m not opposed to the school. Just give the public the opportunity to say yea or nay (on a facilities tax) … And that’s the feeling of the committee.”

An affidavit of petition was filed with Woodford County Clerk Sandy Jones’ office on Tuesday, Feb. 13. Under state law, any five qualified voters who reside in Woodford County may commence petition proceedings to protest the school board’s passage of a facilities tax.

School board Chair Ambrose Wilson IV was also notified of the committee’s intention to circulate a recall petition for the purpose of placing the proposed tax levy of 5.5 cents per $100 of assessed property value on a county-wide ballot to give voters a voice in this decision.

Stahler said he was asked to serve on the committee, which had its first meeting on Feb. 12. He said the committee was scheduled to meet again last Friday, Feb. 16 and would then start circulating its petition. The committee will need to turn in a petition with at least 10 percent (or 1,400 signatures) of registered and qualified voters in Woodford County to the clerk’s office by a March 5 deadline.

“I have no idea (whether or not we will get the necessary signatures), I really don’t,” said Stahler, who served on the Woodford County Board of Education and voted against a property tax rate hike in 2011.

Stahler also acknowledged that during his tenure as Woodford County schools superintendent that he recommended the local board approve a non-recallable nickel tax to cover the cost of building a new middle school.

Asked why he made that recommendation, Stahler pointed out that the condition of the former middle school building was not as good as the current high school building. There were also mold issues with the old WCMS building, which “had always been kind of left out” while other school projects moved forward, he added.

Also, when he was interviewed for the superintendent position, Stahler said he told the board that one of his goals was to build a new middle school “and get us out of that building.”

Allison Richardson, Hunter Shewmaker, Rebecca Shryock and John Varner are the other local residents who make up the five-member committee, which will circulate a petition opposing the Woodford County Board of Education’s action to enact a 5.5 cent facilities tax to pay the cost of building a new high school and make improvements to other school buildings.

While Stahler does not have a problem with paying school taxes for a good public education system, he said, “When it comes to big items like this – in this particular case, just this case … (school board members) need to let the taxpayers make a decision. They might vote to do it.”

The proposed $46 million high school would be built on land adjacent to the Woodford County Middle School near Falling Springs Boulevard. The 5.5 cent facilities tax would cost the owner of a home valued at $100,000 an additional $55 a year in school taxes and the owner of a $200,000 home an additional $100 annually, schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins told The Sun during an interview after the board’s unanimous vote to approve the facilities tax following a public hearing on Jan. 18. The proposed facilities tax was lowered from 6 to 5.5 cents per $110 of assessed property value after the board agreed not to build a new football stadium and baseball and softball fields because those athletic facilities already exist at the Woodford County Park. Its decision came after hearing public opposition to an earlier plan, which included those athletic fields in the new high school project.

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