‘Nickel Tax’ issue discussed at work session

Posted June 20, 2018 at 8:49 am

The proposal for the possible adoption by the school district of the “nickel tax” has been floating around the county for the past several months, but may be closer to coming to vote by the board of education as talk about such a tax has picked up in recent months, in part due to the most recent state budget cuts in education and more locally, the perceived need for the eventual construction of a new Clinton County High School.

The “nickel,” as some simply refer to it, is a localized tax by school districts matched with state funding and is basically used toward facility construction purposes.

Because of the recent budget woes in Frankfort and cuts to education, the full nickel tax matching by the state has been cut, with percentages of matching dollars phased in by percentage over the next couple of years.

Advocates for a local nickel tax are concerned about the existing high school facility, which is one of the oldest facilities in the district, parts of which were constructed in the early 1960s and began as an elementary school.

Some board members and others in the community have been pushing for the tax to be put to a vote soon, because of the possibility the “nickel” could no longer be available if state funding sees any more cuts.

During last week’s Clinton County Board of Education’s monthly work session, Kevin Cheek, an architect for the district, discussed the nickel tax, including how it works and the purposes such a tax could help the district with.

Cheek told the local board members on hand, as well as superintendent Charlotte Nasief, that Clinton County “was not alone” insofar as a district in dire need of funds and school facilities.

The architect also noted that several school districts across the state, that were in need of funding for construction or to just get by, have implemented the nickel tax, including neighboring Cumberland County.

“Every district is concerned about available funding and ‘unmet’ needs,” Cheek told the board.

Cheek noted that he was there to advocate and answer questions and to offer assistance on behalf of the district’s architectural firm and indicated that even without matching funds from the state, at least the district would have the revenue from the nickel tax to rely on in emergency situations, and long-term planning.

The architect also noted that as far as the local taxpayer goes, the “cost” to them would be “about the cost of one pizza per month” on their tax bill.

Superintendent Nasief also discussed the facility problems at the high school, noting the age of the equipment and the expense of having to replace things, such as the HVAC system, which could run into the millions of dollars.

Cheek advised those present that the “nickel” was needed despite any facility problems, noting the financial conditions of most school districts in the state. He also advised that the board, when making its pitch to the public for the need of the tax, not to necessarily deem it for the construction of a new high school in specific terms.

He indicated that even if the nickel tax were to be put in place, and plans made long-term, it would probably be years before the district could have enough funds garnered from the tax to actually construct a new facility.

In relation to the existing CCHS building itself, the superintendent also noted that many workings of the building had outlived their life expectancy, and noted not only the heating and cooling system as a concern, but plumbing, roofing and other areas would have to be addressed.

Also in relation to the existing school, it was noted The Castle, the high school gym, is one of the largest not only in the area, but the fourth region, and there are several other sports facilities on the property. It was suggested the building and grounds could be used as an athletic complex for the district if a new school is built.

The architect advised the board that when advocating the nickel tax to the public, it needed to stress the district’s overall needs and plan out what it plans on doing with the existing high school should a new one be constructed in the future.

He also advised that the next step in the process should be for the district to discuss the financial aspect with finance experts, begin making a long-term plan and do preparation work to let people understand the tax, what it is for and how it can benefit the school district and community.

The discussions on the nickel tax issue was only an informational session last week, with two board members being absent. However, the issue has apparently just begun and will certainly be a front-burner issue in months to come for the school board to make a decision on.

In other business at the work session:

* The board heard student data reports from both middle school and high school principals Angela Sloan and Stacey Evans, respectively, and also discussed staffing at CCHS, as the district is now in search of a new assistant principal and two guidance counselor positions.

The positions will now be posted.

* Finance Director Mike Reeves gave the board a financial report, and superintendent Nasief conducted a brief work session on various topics.

* The board approved the three following items:

— a family medical leave for Tammy Denney through June 2019;

— approved first reading of policy/procedure updates recommended by the Kentucky School Boards Association;

— approved the superintendent’s evaluation forms.

During the public comment period, Walton “Chip” Haddix inferred he was disappointed that architect Cheeks had not clearly indicated that without the nickel tax, a new high school could not be built, in his opinion.

The school board held its regular business meeting this past Monday evening. Details on that session can be found beginning on page 1.