By LISA BICKNELL
CV&T News Editor
A public forum was held at the Estill County Board of Education’s Central Office last Thursday night to allow for comment on the proposed “recallable nickel” tax increase.
Most of those who commented spoke in support of the tax increase, and the proposed career and tech school seemed to be a major reason why they do.
Leon Roberts was the first to speak during the forum. However, he said he is against the nickel tax. He asked Superintendent Jeffrey Saylor why he was “going to Powell County and telling the people over there that they can come over here for no more money.”
Saylor explained that it would be the same situation that allows Estill County students to attend the Madison County tech center. The Estill school system does not have to pay for its students to take classes there.
“Because it is a state-operated facility, we pay nothing,” Saylor said, adding that the Madison County school district paid for the facility, but it is operated with state dollars.
Board member Jon Bicknell voiced his opinion that, “…all the way to the top, this is crooked and corrupt. I will not back it. I think it’s dirty.”
“You don’t have to, Jon,” Saylor said.
“And I don’t back you,” Bicknell answered. He cited ways the superintendents are advised “to manipulate the people to get that tax passed.” He who went on to say that on the “Kentucky web pages…, you get basically your dumbest people to put articles in the paper.”
Roberts assured the superintendent that the tax “will be fought.” Roberts was among those who circulated the petition to recall the nickel the last time it was proposed, in the fall of 2014.
Bicknell said, “I’m for the nickel, if it’s used right,” but he went on to say that he does not think its a good idea to build on to Estill Springs, because the school is built on a flood plain.
Superintendent Saylor said the board is in no way obligated to use the same architects or to build onto Estill Springs and that South Irvine would serve just fine as a preschool center for the next 20 years.
Susan Starling spoke up to say that she was representing only herself, and she’s in favor of the nickel. She explained that opportunities for good paying local jobs are available in the healthcare field, and that students could get trained for those at the tech school.
Tom Hart said that more than 200 years ago, the nation decided it was going to support universal public education and that the most affluent of the population, the property owners, would pick up the tab.
“I support this nickel tax,” he said, adding that he thinks it is in the best interest of the county, the kids, and the economy, as he spoke of the need for trained welders, auto mechanics, etc., in the community.
“I’m for it,” said Robbie Starling. He spoke of the lack of employment in the community, and said a new tech center could help feed that employment. He also said that during his eight years on the board, the Estill County district has lost a lot of money taking the compensatory rate. He noted that the state was on the verge of coming in about twenty years ago when there was “not enough contingency to do anything with.”
Chris Harris had questions about the four percent tax increase and whether or not that is automatic.
Superintendent Saylor said that the four percent tax increase is automatic for the current tax year if the tax increase goes to vote and is voted down.
Kathy Samples said she supports the nickel tax. “I’d spend a nickel any day to get a dime in return,” she said.
“I understand where people can get frustrated,” she also said, regarding disagreement with how money has been spent in the past, but “we need to look forward and not back.”
She commended the board for committing to the tech center.
As the forum concluded, Saylor reminded the board that the facilities plan and the hiring of the architects are within their control. “Nothing is set in stone,” he said.
Once the special called school board meeting was underway at 7 p.m., the “recallable nickel” was approved by a vote of three to two. Jenny Niece made a motion to adopt the nickel, and the motion passed, with board members Rhonda Hardy, Jenny Niece, and Donna Isfort voting in favor of it, and Bicknell and L.W. Beckley voting against it.
The approval of the nickel tax increase marks the beginning of a 45 day window when the public may petition to have the tax recalled. Five hundred and fifty-five registered Estill County voters who voted in the last presidential election must sign the petition for it to be valid.
In other business, the first reading of the KSBA recommended policy/procedure revisions was approved, as well as several consent items, including the minutes of the May 18, 2017 meeting, the treasurer’s report and the payment of the bills, the second reading of the annual leave policy revision, permission to request diesel bids, approval of the treasurer’s bond, the Community Eligibility Provision (lunch programs); the Food Service Procurement Certification; a memorandum of agreement with EKU for student teachers and a resolution concerning the duties of the board attorney. The school board attorney contract was amended to allow for $800 a month so the attorney can keep $1 million in liability insurance.
Personnel actions reported include resignations/term expirations of Vonetta Blevins, bus assistant; Brian Hall, teacher/head girls’ basketball coach at the high school; Whitney Horn, para-educator at South Irvine; DeAnna Martin, technology coordinator at South Irvine; Bonny Mills, teacher at the high school and Margaret Wood, co-athletic director at the high school. Personnel retiring include: Shonna Ballard, a teacher at South Irvine; Mary Martin, Connie Pasley, and Randy Sutter, teachers at the high school; Bobby Muncy, bus driver; and Cynthia Robinson, teacher at West Irvine.
Will Burkhart and Lindsey Wood were recognized as Governors Scholars.
The board went into closed session at the end of the special called meeting. Once they came out of closed session, they voted to accept the superintendent’s evaluation for the year. Saylor earned ratings of “accomplished” in categories in 1, 2, and 5.
The next regularly scheduled school board meeting is July 20 at 6 p.m. at the central office board room.