Now is not the time for another tax increase on the ballot.
Dear JCPS Board Members, Superintendent Pollio and Members of the Media:
I hope this message finds you well and in time for consideration before tonight’s vote.
I am not sure why there seems to have been so much secrecy behind tonight’s rushed public forum and vote on Dr. Pollio’s proposed tax rate increase over the allowable 4%. From where I sit, it doesn’t bode well for transparency and good stewardship of tax dollars.
I wish I had more time to gather my thoughts and double-check my facts, but alas, the meeting starts in less than half an hour, so I must hit send soon if I hope to have any opportunity to prevent our district from making what I foresee to be a grave mistake. Hopefully you are already as concerned about this stealth-like move as I am, but just in case you’re not, I write to ask you to please vote NO on any tax increase over 4% for fiscal period 2023-2024 and provide you with some rationale in the hopes it will change your mind.
In my work as a community leader and organizer with several grassroots organizations in Jefferson County and across Kentucky, you may recall I reached out to warn you that there was no appetite for a tax increase in 2020. The email, dated Sept. 1, 2020, read, in part:
“For nearly six months, Coalition leaders have been trying to warn JCPS
decision-makers of the increasing number of grassroots organizations that feel
Louisville’s Black and West End voters have zero appetite for a tax increase
at this time. We fear district efforts to further advance this agenda
without demonstrating a good-faith effort to earn the vote of Black voters and
their allies, is likely to backfire, resulting in a failure of this ballot
We never had a chance to find out, thank goodness. But because little effort was made to address these concerns until late in the game during 2020, and even less effort appears to have been made in keeping those promises, I can assure you there’s even less of one now. I realize such claims may sound outlandish or hyperbolized to anyone who may be casually following these events, so I am in the process of documenting the facts on the Dear JCPS website at https://dearjcps.com/tax-increase-history/.
This page, currently under development, will include links to news stories, meetings and conversations, and other historical information, such as promises that were made during the 9-29-2020 Superintendent’s report as a result of a call I received from Sadiqa Reynolds, Kish Cumi Price and Michelle Pennix the night before. Were those promises met?
The news articles also make repeated mention of the “dashboard” that would allow taxpayers to keep track of how every penny of our 2020 tax increase was spent. I apologize if I’ve missed the tax increase dashboard in my searches, but if an engaged taxpayer and PTA mom like myself can’t find it, no doubt the rest of the public also has trouble.
Despite my inability to find any media coverage confirming my claim, it is my understanding that a “yes” vote tonight would likely result in another political climate like we endured in 2020. There was group infighting, a right-wing extremist petition, nasty attack ads, smear campaigns and political horse trades that I’m pretty sure our district was at the losing end of. While the last tax increase is still a painful memory in most of our minds, another increase so soon risks possible failure at the ballot box and worsening public relations. Especially since many of our schools and students have fallen even further behind. Is there a marketing budget allocated for countering these attacks? What is the strategy to win? I am doubtful this year’s campaign would fare any better than last since we failed to reconcile our differences.
I fear that requesting another increase greater than the allowable 4% so soon after the last tax increase, without ensuring public perception that JCPS is doing enough to demonstrate how past promises have been kept, and without first seeking other revenue sources, will only serve to further ill will toward our district, which damages public trust of our district and further harms the families who rely on public schools the most. Not to mention, it takes money out of pockets and food off of tables for many of our families who cannot be asked to scrape up another trickle down rent increase from their landlords.
Listen to taxpayers, such as Lester Gamble, who spoke during the Tax Rate Hearing in 2019, and asked you back then to find the revenue from other sources:
He made this plea on behalf of himself and some of his neighbors BEFORE the pandemic and BEFORE the subsequent worsening housing crises, food and utilities inflation costs and healthcare burdens made things monumentally worse for many of our residents.
Please demonstrate your good stewardship of our tax dollars and look elsewhere for new revenues before coming back to voters to pony up again so soon. Tighten the belt, for starters. Salaries of top executives continue to increase with every teacher raise. Unlock their steps and freeze their salaries. Salary for the JCTA President should also not come out of our budget. These are just a couple of examples of direct savings.
One indirect method includes restoring diversity targets to each school and investing heavily in programs that are magnetic to attract families to schools that fall behind. This in turn would create more equitable schools where families with wealth and privilege are given a greater opportunity to provide transportation, financial resources, volunteer hours, social capital and professional talent where it is needed instead of heavily concentrated in just a handful of “favored” schools.
I hope I’m not alone in recognizing that now is a bad time to bring another tax referendum to the ballot, but if the board does decide to go forward, and everything is permitted to proceed ethically and according to protocols, I have no doubt the tax increase petitioners will garner enough signatures this time to wind up on the ballot. Our coalition is poised to continue the stand that we took in 2020, which is to ask JCPS to EARN the People’s Vote on the tax increase. This continues to include a community pledge to stand with grassroots groups who demand a seat at the table regarding how these tax revenues will be spent, as well as transparency and accountability during the process. Judging by the way things went last time, it’s going to take a monumental shift in how leaders seek to be more inclusive and collaborate with impacted partners before we are likely to come out in favor of the tax increase, should it wind up on the ballot. However, I will leave that up to the voting members of our majority non-white coalition when it’s time to call for the vote to support or oppose.
Thank you for your service to the children of our community and continuing to be good stewards of our limited resources, NOW more than ever. I know the contents of this message may be concerning, but we must be forthcoming and transparent for this message to be received in the spirit in which it’s intended. I am happy to address any concerns you may have.
Please vote “no” tonight and let’s work collectively to come up with a winning revenue increase plan for 2024!
Dear JCPS, Co-founder
& President (2015 – Present)
Save Our Schools KY,
Co-founder & President (2016 – Present)
Against Racist and Political Repression, Board Member (2020-Present)
Coalition for the
People’s Agenda – Education Committee, Chair (2020-Present)
Candidate for JCPS
School Board, District 3 (2022)
Candidate for KY
Senate, District 36 (2018)
Governor’s Commonwealth Institute for Parental Leadership (GCIPL) Fellow (2017)
15th District PTA Vice President (2014-2017)