For the first time since 1997, the Pulaski County Board of Education has voted to raise the school district’s tax rate.

However, even with the increase, the county school system will still be below both the other local independent districts on levied tax rates.

The board voted to approve the tax increase after the school system was designated as one of only five growth districts by the Kentucky Department of Education (others included Clark, Hardin, McCracken and Russell counties). To qualify as a growth district, there must be student increases to be at least 150 students in an average daily attendance and 3 percent overall growth for the preceding five years. If a school district does not meet growth during one of the five years, they have to start a new five-year window.

With that designation comes the opportunity to assess a growth nickel increase for capital construction projects, which can only be used for new facilities and maintaining the current 16 school sites that make up the Pulaski County School System.

“Our levied rates have simply not kept up proportionately to student numbers and increased costs,” said Superintendent Tim Eaton. “We are a fiscally responsible district and take pride in our ability to provide a wide range of quality academic, operational and support services with one of the lowest assessed rates in the area.”

The superintendent added that with the growth in the district he feels like it is a very critical time.

The growth increase will bring real property rates from 40.3 to 46.4 cents per $100.

The 6-cent increase includes 3/10 of one cent that will maintain maximum state funding as well as the qualifying growth nickel.

Eaton said prior to the rate hike, PulaskiCounty, the 14th largest school district in the state, was ranked 146th out of 175 school districts with its tax rates. He added that “operational funds have been used to maintain facilities, but rising fuel costs have resulted in significant cost increases on all goods and services required by the district.”

With the tax increase, the district will rank 99th out of 175 school districts in the state.

Eaton also said that with the recent bonding of the Pulaski County Area Technology Center and the Nancy Elementary addition, the current bonding potential of the district is about $2 million, which is not enough to provide for additional facilities and facility renovations to meet the needs of student capacity under the current growth trends.

The growth nickel will increase bonding potential to about $18 million, allowing the district to begin the process of meeting the needs of student capacity.

The board passed the new tax rate unanimously.

“For us to be progressive, we’ve got to be able to fund things,” said Phillip Wilson, chairman of the board.

The four other board members — Helen Hansford, Betty Richards, Alan Larkin and Bill White — all were in agreement.

A public hearing was held at 4 p.m. on Tuesday about setting the new tax rate. No one showed up at the hearing.

In other business:

• The current dropout rate in the Pulaski County School System is .02 percent with six drop-outs to date, which included Pulaski Central 3, Pulaski County 3, Pulaski County High School 2 and Southwestern High School 1.

• Receiving the PRISM awards were Nancy Pulsco from Pulaski County High School; Jennifer Brock, Northern Middle School; Tim Baker, Southern Middle School and Jenile Grider, Burnside Elementary.

• Eaton in his Superintendent’s Report told everyone Kentucky had just lost their Commissioner of Education Gene Wilhoit as he will be taking a position in Washington. He said Wilholt will be taking on a very important role, however at the same time it has left a void in the state.

Eaton added that the assessment data will be released at the end for the week.

• The board passed the working budget for the 2007-2008 year with a total budget of $59,092,888.76. Contingency is set at about $1.2 million, however Bill Boyd, director of fiscal services, said though that may sound like a lot, it isn’t enough to pay for one month’s salaries that cost the district a little more than $3 million a month.

• The board granted approval for projects including partial roof replacement at Pulaski Elementary, Pulaski County High School football grandstands, bleachers and press box, Pulaski High School concession and rest room facility and gym floor replacements for Eubank, Nancy, Oak Hill and Woodstock.

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