• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Over 1,500 sign petition opposing high school tax

A petition committee was busy counting signatures opposing a proposed 5.5 cent facilities tax to build a new high school on Monday afternoon. Woodford County Clerk Sandy Jones will now determine if at least 1,377 qualified voters signed the petition, which was submitted to her office on March 5.

The petition given to the clerk’s office on Monday contained 1,562 signatures. Jones will have up to 30 days to determine if the petition contains enough signatures of qualified voters (1,377 – a number equal to 10 percent of Woodford County’s voters in the last presidential election).

Any challenge to Jones’s determination on whether or not the recall petition has a sufficient number of signatures must be made in Woodford Circuit Court within 10 days of her decision, she said.

If the recall petition is successful, the Woodford County Board of Education would then decide whether or not to place a proposed tax levy of 5.5 cents per $100 of assessed property on the ballot for a county-wide vote during a special election (at the board of education’s expense) or the general election in November, according to Jones.

She said a second tax billing would be necessary if a facilities tax were approved by voters in the November election.

The Woodford County Board of Education was scheduled to have a special meeting last night, March 7, to discuss its options moving forward, said schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins on Tuesday. Contingent upon the recall petition being certified, he said the board could vote to move forward with an election or rescind its approval of a facilities tax.

During an interview on Monday, petition committee member Paul Stahler said voters, who rarely are given a voice on a tax increase, signed the petition because they wanted a voice on whether or not they will have to pay a facilities tax to cover the cost of building a new high school.

“We’re not complaining about the school board. They did what they’re supposed to do. Now, we’re doing what we’re supposed to do,” said Stahler. He said those who signed the petition, many of them senior citizens on fixed incomes, are not opposed to a new high school, but they do not want their taxes raised.

As recently as last Thursday, Stahler said members of the petition committee were unsure if they’d get a sufficient number of signatures to give voters a voice. “Over the (last) weekend it really built a lot of momentum,” he explained. “I don’t know what happened – word of mouth or whatever, but (the signatures) started pouring in over the weekend.” Stahler said the number of signatures grew from around 800 last Thursday to over 1,500 by last weekend, which the former superintendent of Woodford County Public Schools described as “a huge surge.”

“I do believe in my heart that there is a level of support in our community for (a new high school),” said Hawkins. “So now if we (the school board) choose to move forward with an election then we’ll have work to do to get that support out there.” A proposed $46 million high school would be built on land adjacent to Woodford County Middle School along Falling Springs Boulevard.

The proposed 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 $110 annually, according to Hawkins.

After hearing opposition about building a new football stadium, and softball and baseball fields when those athletic facilities already exist at the Woodford County Park, the board agreed to not construct those facilities as a part of the high school project, and voted to lower the facilities tax from 6 to 5.5 cents per $100 of assessed property value.

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