Understanding the Nickel Tax
To the Editor:
Both as a private citizen and a teacher in the school system, I am pretty passionate about our community having access to factual information about the "Nickel Tax" that will be on the ballot on Tuesday, November 5th. The Christian County Board of Education originally passed this tax for the purpose of increasing our bonding potential. Our traditionally conservative school board passed this tax with a unanimous vote. That says something about the needs in our school district. We need that bonding potential to build, most urgently, a new academic building for a deteriorated Hopkinsville High School, then a few years later, the same for Christian County High School. There is much that needs to be done. Regardless of whether you support renovation or new construction of academic buildings, the fact remains that neither high school is equipped to house the number of students we have enrolled there, by several hundred students. Even if we added on to serve the greater number of students, adding on requires everything attached to be brought up to current building code standards. That is a money pit waiting to happen. We need a new source of revenue to make any significant improvements to HHS. What we have on hand and what we are able to borrow or may qualify to get matching funds for is a drop in the bucket compared to the need. If we want conditions to be better for students, we need to find a new source of revenue.
I think it's a reasonable tax. There is quite a bit of misinformation circulating in our community. The "nickel tax" is NOT a 5% tax. It is a 0.0005% tax. Yes, that is an increase of 12.78%, but ONLY because our current property tax is SO LOW. Here's how Christian County stacks up in comparison to surrounding school districts of comparable size: Owensboro - 98.8 cents, Bowling Green - 93.6 cents, Paducah - 84.4 cents, Daviess Co. - 76.7 cents, Henderson Co. - 72.3 cents, Hopkins Co. - 67.8 cents, Marshall Co. - 66.6 cents, Warren Co. - 63.7 cents, McCracken Co. - 58.7 cents, Christian Co. 54.1 cents.
If passed, the nickel tax will add $55 per year property tax to every $100,000 in property value. I have read arguments from "we're taxed on everything" to "why should only people who own property have to pay for schools?" These are contradictory arguments. There are taxes on utilities, etc. SO THAT property owners are NOT the only people who are taxed to help provide an education for our community's students. Taxes are structured to spread the burden among the citizens. It's my belief that the generations that came before me contributed to the costs of me being educated in Christian County Public Schools from kindergarten - 12th grade. The Rotary Club helped me go to college with a low interest loan. This community had my back. I came back here to teach 25 years ago because I love my hometown and the people in it. I see this tax increase as reasonable and as my turn to do the same for the next generation, one I want equipped as well as possible to take care of me when I am old.
If our community disagrees about who is to blame for the condition of our high schools, can we stop the mud slinging and agree to view this as a wake up call to pay more attention? As a voting community, we elected this school board and every school board before them. Sometimes the candidates we vote for win and sometimes they lose. And after people are elected, even if we voted for them, they will not always vote the way each of their constituents anticipated. This is how democracy works. The comments I have been reading for months about the Nickel Tax on various news outlets and social media are frightening, some bordering on violent. Name calling, calling for people to be "tarred and feathered"? It's descending into something that breaks my heart for our community. But this uproar, to me, seems like a day late and a dollar short. Detailed board meeting minutes, financial audits, facilities plans, etc. ALL have been available to any one of us if we had just asked. They were not hidden from us. The time to monitor what was done in the past has slipped through our fingers as a community. We did this, and now we need to figure out how to fix what we did, as a community, to our kids. We're 11th in population and 113th in property taxes paid? It's caught up with us and it didn't happen overnight. Citizens can ask for access to financial audits and maintenance records to educate ourselves for future active citizenship, but that doesn't change the fact that we need improved facilities for our high school students yesterday.
Please exercise your rights as a citizen, whatever you feel about the Nickel Tax, to vote your conscience, but I urge you to get your information from a factual reputable source. I think Christian County Public Schools are working hard to meet more student academic and non-academic needs than at any other time, and doing it with fewer and fewer resources every year due to federal and state legislative mandates that are either not funded or grossly under-funded.
Please join me in supporting the school board's efforts to locate a new revenue source. No one likes to pay more taxes, but Christian County is long due for an increase. For more information, visit https://www.vote-for-our-schools.com/
Pat Avenue, Hopkinsville.