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Covington Board of Education Approves Tax Increase

The Covington board of education voted Thursday in a meeting at Holmes High School to increase its share of property taxes by 4%, the highest allowed under state law without going to voters for approval.

District financial director Annette Burtschy offered a presentation showing that the current tax rate of 106.1 on a $100,000 property costs the owner $1,061 per year.

The increase raises the rate to 108.1, which would cost a $100,000 property owner $1,081 per year.

With many properties in the district's boundaries, which does not fully encompass the entire City of Covington, below that $100,000 value, Burtschy also shared an example of a home worth $77,398.

Under the previous rate of 106.1, the owner of such a property would be responsible for $821.19 to the district, while under the newly approved rate the owner would pay $836.37.

A commercial establishment worth $358,638 paid $3,805.13 in taxes with the 106.1 rate, and will pay $3,876.88 with the 108.1 rate, she said.

The previous tax rate resulted in $17,077,557 in revenue last year while the new rate is projected to bring in $18,332,683.

The district cited rising costs such as retirement benefits and transportation for reasons to adopt the higher rate. Burtschy said that in 2012, the district's contribution to the state retirement system for teachers was $80,000 but is now $481,000 for certified employees. For classified employees, the contribution increased over that same time period from $1.5 million to $2.5 million.

At Thursday's meeting, time was set aside for public comment on the tax issue. No one spoke against it.

When the formal meeting started, board member Tom Haggard voted against the increase while all other board members voted in favor, resulting in its passage by a vote of 4-1.

"For me, the administration did not provide a compelling case on why we needed to raise taxes at this time," Haggard said. "I felt it would be more prudent to not jeopardize our fragile economic recovery due to the COVID-19 pandemic by raising taxes when we could freeze the rate and still bring in more revenue due to increased assessments in the city. By keeping our tax rate at the same level as last year, we could still have brought in an additional $1 million in revenue."

According to Burtschy's presentation, keeping the rate the same as last year would have resulted in a revenue of $18,052,279.

-Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor