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Dayton Schools Take 4% Tax Increase, Expect to Do Same Next Year

Millions of dollars in real estate is being developed on the city's riverfront, a sign of huge tax revenues ahead.

But how far ahead for Dayton?

Too far for the school district not to take the full 4% tax increase this year, as recommended by Superintendent Jay Brewer an unanimously approved by the board Wednesday night.

While the Manhattan Harbour development on the riverfront will add dozens of high-end homes that will will generate property tax revenue for the city and school district, how far off that money is from being collected is not yet known. One house is under construction and a few more will be underway soon. One other high-end condo development in the city is in the Campbell County school district which doesn't help Dayton's cause.

Instead, Dayton Independent Schools is collecting money from an assessed cumulative real estate value that decrease by over $1 million in 2014. "The reality here is, the lower the property value assessment goes, the higher the rate has to go to generate the same amount of revenue," Brewer said. The school board meeting was well attended Wednesday as residents expressed their concern over paying more money. 

The other issue? Declining enrollment. Sixteen years ago the district had around 1,300 students, a number that fell to 828 last year. Brewer said that the district was able to "stop the bleeding", and could be back at 900 this year, reversing a trend and leading to more state money based on head count. "When we get more students we won't need as much money," he said. "If we don't take the 4%, we won't make our budget."

The district needs its budget to allocate funds for a new intercom system in the high school which is over thirty years old. That will cost around $20,000. Lincoln Elementary needs a proper thermostat system. "Right now it's either on or it's off," Brewer said, noting a lack of more functional temperature regulation and cost control. That bill would come in at around $45,000. Davis Field has beat up old bleachers and concrete seats that need to be fixed and replaced.

The district is also proud, Brewer said, to offer free preschool and free athletic participation opportunities. "If we had to charge a sports fee, we probably wouldn't have sports," he said. He also said that he believes that the taxes paid within the school district are reasonable. This year's increase raises the rate from 103.7 cents for every $100 a property is worth to 108.1 cents per $100. Owners of a $100,000 home will pay $52 more than last year. Dayton is one of ten districts in Kentucky not take the optional 3% utility tax, too.

The revenue collected will be $1,811,400.

The school district also expects to take another 4% increase next year. Brewer said that the state mandated a 2% raise for teachers but only funded 1% of it. Dayton is already struggling to pay teachers' in competition with other school districts in the region. A math teacher was recently offered a job but opted to go to Dixie Heights High School instead because Kenton County Schools offered her $5,000 more, Brewer noted. 

"We used to have one of the highest salary schedules in Northern Kentucky about ten years ago," board member Diane Huff said. 

"The next step for us is working on the salary schedule," Brewer said. 

"I think there's greater days ahead for this school district as far as lowering the tax rate and taking the burden off the citizens," board member Bernie Pfeffer said, again acknowledging the riverfront development.

"That's why I love jogging on the floodwall yelling, build, baby, build," Brewer said.

Whether the district is too small to continue to be an independent system appears to be moot. Board members said that Bellevue has not been interested in discussing any possible merger.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News

Photo: Brewer (center) explains the need for the 4% tax increase Wednesday/RCN