The Paducah Independent School District voted Monday to raise its tax rate from 84 cents per $100 of property to 86.4 cents to help fund safety measures spelled out by Senate Bill 1 and to help offset a decrease in state grant funding.

That rate will apply to real property and to personal property. For example, if a house is valued at $100,000, the Paducah school district tax would be $864.

The increased tax rate is expected to provide $9.09 million in revenue for the school district. In the last fiscal year, the 84 cent rate produced $8.43 million. If the board had voted to take the compensating rate - the tax rate which would produce about the same amount of revenue as the previous fiscal year -- the rate would have been 83.1 cents on real property and 84 cents on personal property.

However, there is more to consider in this fiscal year. Safety measures required by the state legislature to be in place by the 2022-23 school year through SB 1 -- also called the School Safety and Resiliency Act -- will cost $650,000, which includes security vestibules at Paducah Tilghman High School, Clark Elementary School, McNabb Elementary School and Morgan Elementary School.

"Over the last three fiscal years, we've lost almost a half a million dollars in general fund revenue," said Superintendent Donald Shively in a public hearing about the tax rate held prior to the school board meeting. "In the same time frame ... we've been able to cut almost $700,000 worth of expenditures out of our operating budget."

Shively said part of the problem lies in funding for Support Education Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK), which is a formula-driven allocation of state-provided funds to local school districts. The formula includes funding for transportation costs and special needs students as reported by districts.

"The political rhetoric I continue to hear in the state of Kentucky is that the General Assembly has never put more money in SEEK, or they've done that more than any other administration," Shively said. "I will tell you that's true. In FY 18, the base child spending was $3,981 per child. In FY '19, that changed to $4,000 per child.

"But that's not the entire story. ... In FY '18, we got $623,000 in state grant funding. In FY '19, when we moved SEEK up...we saw some cuts in different places and we ended up with $521,000. The total difference was we lost $101,000 in our grants."

Shively said the state did not fund professional development in FY 19 and will not in this fiscal year, and other cuts were set as well, bringing the amount of state grant funding for FY 2020 to $404,000. That, coupled with state-mandated security measures that did not come with state funding for those measures, means the district will need more money this year.

"We try to be very efficient with our resources, but it can be challenging to maintain the high level of quality of education we have in our schools without looking for additional revenue to offset the costs of these unfunded state mandates," said board member Janice Howard. "A school should be a place of learning and, unfortunately, in the current social climate, without school safety, this is going to be difficult to achieve."

"It is no secret that the state chronically underfunds schools," said board member Felix Akojie. "Currently, the state isn't funding so many of the mandates that they put us on. As a board member, I'm concerned that if the board does not raise tax rates, there will immediately be staffing cuts. We would have to look at cutting programs and have to delay some construction projects. Not increasing revenue - for me - is not an option."

The board also approved the working budget for FY 2020 and the purchase of property at 408 Otis Dinning Drive for $49,000.

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