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School board sets tax rate one cent higher

The monthly Hancock County Board of Education Meeting was held on Thursday, August 31st. The board set the tax rate for 2023 at one cent higher than last year, which is a 1.4 percent higher rate than 2022. HCHS Principal Ginger Estes presented achievements made so far in this new school year at the high school, and the Local Planning Committee (LPC) held an Open Forum preceding the meeting, to review and approve the 4-year District Facility Plan (DFP) draft once more, for upgrading all of the HC Schools facilities.

Chairman Nick Boling (Assistant Superintendent of HC Schools) and LPC members had reviewed the plan in March and it was sent to the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE). The amended plan was again reviewed by LPC members at the July meeting during a Public Forum, and Jeanie Cannon, with RBS Design Group, presented details of the amendments made to the draft (details of the DFP were printed in the July 20 edition of the Hancock Clarion).

The DFP was drafted based on overall ratings of every facility in the district after being surveyed, with the “District Need” amount totaling $33,636,957. Renovations and additions planned for these facilities in the next 4 years include expansions, kitchens, cafeterias, libraries, administrative areas, auditoriums and gyms, with capital construction priorities scheduled after 2025.

The DFP was approved by LPC members in July, and after this Open Forum, Boling said, “What will happen after tonight, I will send the forum notes to the KDE and they will then approve or approve with modifications and they’ll send that back to us. Then, you guys as a board at the next board meeting will choose to vote on that draft as an actual plan. Then, that plan will go to KDE State Board for approval.”

The plan will be good for 4 years, with the option to reconvene and make an adjustment in an addendum if any unforeseen circumstances arise that would require additional funding for a specific project. The board, Boling explained, will not be able to take on any projects for restricted funding unless it is listed somewhere in the DFP. The board can undertake a project not listed in the DFP, but that would be financed with general funds.

Sidewalks & Paths

The board approved new concrete sidewalks and paths at HCHS. “This will be coming out of our contingency fund that was already there,” Superintendent Asberry said. “We’ll have new concrete sidewalks and paths. It’ll look new along with the new track at the high school.”

Tax Rate

“The Hancock County Board of Education (HC BOE) strives to remain one of the best school systems in the State of Kentucky,” Asberry stated. “We have implemented new curricula in reading, math, science and social studies to better educate our students. Our School Resource Officer Program, which is fully funded by the HC BOE, has been expanded to include every campus. We have done so to ensure the safety of our students and staff. These are just a few examples of the many investments we have made and will continue to make for our students and community.

These improvements combined with inflationary prices have created the need for a slight increase in our tax rate. The HC School Board has set the tax rate for 2023 at one cent higher than last year, which is a 1.4 percent higher rate than 2022. The Board has chosen the “Compensating Rate” or “No Change” for the past five years. The “Compensating Rate” does NOT generate additional revenue for the school system, but only sustains the funding level from the previous year.

One Cent is equivalent to $1 increase for every $10,000 Assessment: Example, $150,000 home assessment= $15 more in taxes, $300,000 home assessment= $30 more in taxes, $500,000 home assessment=$50 more in taxes, etc. Understanding the importance of being fiscally responsible, our school district has implemented cost-saving measures. These measures have allowed us to continue giving all students a high quality education while choosing not to take the state allowable 4 percent tax increase at any time over the last five years. We have made fiscally responsible decisions and implemented strategic staffing solutions that have lowered our overall expenses. Additionally, the Motor Vehicle and Utility tax will continue to remain the same rate. All of these efforts have helped lessen the local tax burden.”

HCHS Presentation

HCHS Principal Ginger Estes presented to board members the achievements made so far in this new school year. “There are so many great things going on at the high school and I’m very excited to share those with you all today,” Estes said. “We’ve worked super hard the last six or seven months on developing apprenticeships and partnerships with different local community members and businesses.

Our current seniors are at 90 percent transition rate, 3 weeks into the year. We met today and I came up with a few different plans for the kids that weren’t transition-ready and that’s roughly about 7 kids out of our senior class. We made sure today that they each have an individualized plan. I was very proud of that work.

We have a staff of 35 teachers and 6 of those are special ed. teachers. With our teachers, we offer 13 different pathways for career readiness and 9 different college-level classes within our building. We have all of that internally. That doesn’t include the kids that go to early college. We’re really excited that for such a small school, we really have the staff that you can’t beat. They are so incredible.

We have 114, roughly, seniors and 63 percent of them are already academic-ready, benchmarked for taking a dual credit class, and 55 are career-ready. A handful of students have both. We’re really excited about those students and the opportunities we are providing for them that just opens up a world of influence for them and helps them make better decisions.

Our goal is to start at 90 percent or higher with next year’s seniors. The things we’ve been working on lately are collaborations. We have 2 different track programs through KDE (track programs are very specialized partnership monitored by the state with requirements to meet certain benchmarks before students can be part of those partnerships).

Carmeuse and Domtar have both stepped forward. Carmeuse owns Yager Materials (Yager Materials merged with Carmeuse Lime & Stone in 2019).

They were the first ones to approach us. They approached Mr. Duncan and asked him for some diesel kids because they needed some diesel mechanics in the area and that was one of our needs assessment in our analysis. So those students came in and did a family night and talked about it.

We worked with Carmeuse, KDE, HC Industrial Foundation, Domtar, OCTC and WKU – all have come together to make a lot of things happen for us. Those are our partners. We did a needs analysis and we had our CTE council meetings. We met with our regional group and we did a work-based learning needs analysis and gathered information with all of our research to figure out what we were going to be able to offer when people come to us and asked what they can do to help, to work together.

We started small. The diesel program was the first one. They came to us to schedule for a parent night. They had to do interviews. It was very competitive, because these students they get paid to come to school. Which is cool for juniors and seniors to be able to do that. They had to do OCIA training, etc. They had to step up and really work. I was very proud of them.

Domtar did the exact same thing. They came in and did a family night, had their interviews, did all of their information, OSHA models, etc. They went further, they purchased some of OCTCs curriculum so they could also have dual credit classes. Domtar pays a little bit less, but it’s a college credit so they pay for those classes and it evens out.

Carmeuse and Domtar both decided the first year to do curriculum a couple of days a week and then each of them would send in a trainer. Carmeuse had the garage, buses, engines. Then Domtar started sending in their trainers. Domtar students already finished their college classes. They are so motivated and they want to get on the floor at Domtar. That leads to the second year, where students work half a day at their workplace, either Yager or Domtar, and the rest of the day at school.

This is where track comes in and this is where it is different than work-based learning. KDE insists that Carmeuse and Domtar follow through for a year until they leave us. That’s guaranteed for them as long as they are going to be in both requirements. The kids are doing so well with it. They went to Domtar Tuesday and did their major paperwork. They are super excited.

Domtar has $18, plus college credit. Carmeuse is $20 an hour, and up to 10 hours a week for both, with unlimited hours in summertime, and with benefits. HR people take care of them. KDE follows them for 2 years after they graduate to ensure they complete their apprenticeship.

For our future focus, we want more apprenticeships. We love this and what it’s doing for kids. We love that the community is involved and so we will present to the HC Chamber of Commerce next month and we’re working on some teacher apprenticeships in the future and local apprenticeships. It can be a smaller company. They have to do a contract with KDE and follow their guidelines.”

Treasurer’s Report

Director of Finance and Director of Grant Development & Student Support Services Josh Scherrer reported: End of the month total – $4,726,608.47; Receipts for the month – $705,833.66; Total Expenditures – $907,431.71, and Balance at Close of the Month – $4,504,808.68.

By Jennifer Wimmer

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