The Daviess County Public Schools Board of Education voted Thursday evening in approval of a new tax rate for the 2019-2020 school year. Four of five board members voted in favor of the tax increase, including Chairman Dr. Tom Payne, Vice Chairman Dale Stewart and board members Todd Anderson and James Morgan. Board member Frank Riney chose to oppose the tax increase, resulting in a 4-1 vote.
This tax increase means DCPS should see an additional $1.9 million in revenue this year, which would be used to offset a loss in state revenue of $983,000. The increase is .7 cents per $100 of assessed value, plus .1 cent for exonerations, for a total of .8 cents per $100 of assessed value.
DCPS Director of Finance Sara Harley said for a home valued at $100,000, the new tax rate would have residents pay $8 per year, or $.67 per month. It is the first time in three years that DCPS has voted to raise taxes.
After the board meeting, Riney cited a few reasons behind his decision to vote in opposition of the tax increase, calling it “a protest vote.”
“It’s hard for me to raise taxes when those kids on the other side of the county — the ones who go to Audubon, especially — are being bussed completely out of their district to the other side of the county,” he said.
What Riney’s referring to is a years long districting issue that forces students at two of the six elementary schools on the west side of town to attend middle school at College View rather than at Burns, where students from the other four elementary schools on the west side are districted to attend.
“A lot of people have complained,” he said. “I know these guys figure, ‘We’ll never have enough money to do everything we want to do,’ but it’s just a situation where we’re creating a hardship for those people.”
Riney said he’s been outspoken about supporting a new districting plan that makes it easier on the parents and students who have to drive across the county to get to school every day. However, no plans regarding the change have come to fruition yet.
“It’s hard for me to support when there’s no plan in place to ever change that,” he said.
Another issue that bothers Riney about raising taxes is the financial burden it puts on families who can’t afford another tax increase.
“Fortunately, we have a lot of families in this county who are able to absorb the tax increases without any problem, but I’ve been here a long time, and I’ve seen the number of free and reduced lunch kids skyrocket,” he said. “It’s almost four times what it was when I came on the board.”
Riney’s decision was a personal one, he said. He didn’t necessarily expect his vote of opposition to change the outcome of the vote at large, but he also said he couldn’t vote in favor of something he didn’t believe in.
“It’s just a different opinion, the way I look at things,” he said. “We are raising these people’s taxes, and it’s very inconvenient. If they miss the bus, they miss a day of school because it’s a long way for them. It’s been going on for about 25 years and there’s no plans to change it.”
Riney said he can understand why the other board members voted in favor of the tax increase. DCPS is being called a “richer district” because of the assessment of its property, Riney added, meaning the district is receiving less money from the state than in years past.
“They are reducing our state funds, and as our evaluation continues to increase, we do lose some funds,” he said. “Again, there will never be enough money to do everything they want as far as education is concerned. But we’re raising people’s taxes, and [some of the students] are not being treated the way everyone else is being treated.”