• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Board to explore its options in wake of tax defeat

THIRTEEN OF Woodford County’s 19 precincts were carried by “Against” voters in the June 26 special election that decided the fate of a 5.5 cents property tax hike to pay for a new high school and other facility needs. The two best-performing “For” precincts, Huntertown Elementary (7B) and Southside Elementary (7C), were inside schools, while the Millville (2A) and Nonesuch (8B) firehouses went strongly “Against.” (Graphic prepared by Woodford County GIS Coordinator Kenneth Johns)

Now that the community has voted against a property tax increase to pay for the construction of a new high school, school board Chair Ambrose Wilson IV said he and other board members need to discuss all options moving forward.

“It’s very important for the board to get together in July, reflect upon the last four, five, six months – because we put a lot of time and energy into (this campaign for a facilities tax) – and then start planning for the future,” said Wilson during a telephone interview Monday afternoon. “I don’t know what that’ll be …, but I think we need to come together as a board (and) look at each and every option in front of us regarding the current high school …”

Woodford County High School, which opened its doors in 1964, has some definite problems in terms of delivering “a quality education to our high school students – today, tomorrow and several years ahead of us,” Wilson said.

“It has some shortcomings,” he added, “in being able to offer programs that we would like to offer…” Replacing the HVAC system and making roof repairs are structural issues that will also need to be addressed, he said.

The district cannot bond (borrow) the dollars needed to finance the construction of a new high school (estimated at $46 million) so the board needs to make “a thoughtful and deliberate decision” on what to do next, according to Wilson. He said any decision related to the current high school and making improvements to that facility will “carry this board and future boards for the next, probably 15-20 years.”

“We often heard (from the opposition during the campaign) just vote against (the property tax increase) and wait, wait for three to five years and it will happen – that’s just not going to happen …,” said Wilson.

With other school facility needs in the coming years, Wilson described the timetable for being able to bond a high school project as uncertain.

Schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins said prior to last Tuesday’s special election without a facilities tax that a new high school could not be considered for at least another 12 years. “That means next year’s kindergarten students – the class of 2021 – would not see a new high school,” he said.

Wilson said he was surprised when a majority of Woodford Countians voted against the facilities tax (5.5 cent per $100 of assessed property value).

“After I got over the fact that we’d lost,” said Wilson, “my thoughts immediately went to ‘what do we do now?’ We’ve got … to carry out the job that we were elected to do – to offer the best educational opportunities to all our students…”

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