A ‘big’ statement supporting tax hike for new high school
David and Karen Venis of Versailles say they donated $950 to pay for the “I Support Our Schools” billboard on the U.S. 60 Bypass at Yellow Jacket Drive because they want a new high school for their three children and future generations of students in Woodford County Public Schools.
“That’s why we opted to make a statement as big as we did,” said Karen, during a recent interview in her family’s home.
She described building a new high school on land adjacent to the middle school as a “no-brainer” and a proposed tax increase to make that happen as an investment in education.
Taxpayers will vote “For” or “Against” a proposed 5.5 cent property tax increase during a special election on Tuesday, June 26.
The facilities tax (5.5 cents per $100 of assessed real and personal property value) would increase the local school district’s bonding/borrowing capacity and, according to schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins, allow the board to build a new high school in about three years rather than waiting until at least 2028.
“That would be the earliest … assuming that we would not have to bond (borrow money) for any (other school) projects between now and then,” said Hawkins.
“I don’t think we’ll go 10 more years without having to bond some additional projects.”
He acknowledged that moving forward with the construction of a new high school will increase the district’s debt, but he also pointed out that a similar three-fold increase in debt occurred 15 years ago after the district moved forward with the construction of a new middle school and renovations of Huntertown and Simmons elementary school.
“A district will increase – in some cases dramatically increase – their debt any time they take on a big project,” said Hawkins.
“Because if you waited until you paid down your debt before you take on any project, your facilities would be so old by the time you were able to address any (facility) needs – it would put you trying to play catch up the entire time,” he added.
Hawkins said if voters do not vote “For” a property tax increase June 26 so the board can move forward with the construction of a new high school, the district does not have a high school facility to expand opportunities for students.
“We just felt like this (our donation for the billboard) is something that we could do to just show our support (for building a new high school),” said Karen. “Our initial intent was actually to be anonymous,” but after misinformation began circulating on social media about who paid for the billboard, she and her husband went public with their decision to pay it.
David and Karen, who both graduated from Woodford County High School in the 1990s, said they moved from Lexington to Versailles about a decade ago because they wanted their children (ages 3, 9 and 12) to attend Woodford County schools.
“We were both from a small town. We both benefited from it. So we felt that was the right choice,” said Karen. She said a new high school will give children a better and safer learning environment. The current high school opened in 1964.
If a new high school does not get built soon, Karen said she has concerns about her oldest son being in a band room that sometimes gets inundated with water during heavy rains.
“We want him – when he’s in band – to be able to focus on playing his instrument and not cleaning up water. And that area flooded when I was there,” said Karen, a 1996 graduate of WCHS.