UPDATE: Voters Approve 3 Percent Utility Tax Levy in Westwood, Ky.

By: Lauren Schmoll Email
By: Lauren Schmoll Email

UPDATE 2/19/13 @ 8 p.m.
WESTWOOD, Ky. (WSAZ) -- The 3 percent utility tax in Westwood will stand, voters decided Tuesday.

According to unofficial returns, there were 547 votes not to recall the existing levy and 512 votes to have it recalled.

In December, the Fairview School Board approved the tax. Shortly after that vote, though, residents opposing the tax began a petition drive to put the tax vote on the ballot.

The tax costs the average resident about $150 per year and brings in between $300,000 and $700,000 per year to the school district.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 2/19/13 @ 4:45 p.m.
WESTWOOD, Ky. (WSAZ) -- The tiny town of Westwood is divided Tuesday.

“There's a lot of kids in this neighborhood, and I do not want to see our school go away,” mother Neva Benicker said. “I don't want to see our kids go to Ashland.”

“Voting against the tax because most of us can't afford it, you know,” Charles Stout said. “Plain and simple.”

Signs are posted all through town, and voters are coming out in droves -- some hoping to strike down a 3 percent utility tax imposed by the school board, others wanting to see it go through.

“It's game day,” Fairview High School Principal Garry McPeek said. “You know, it's an opportunity for people to get out and voice their opinion. Voice their vote.”

McPeek wants to see more money go to capital improvement, to help attract students to the Fairview district. But he says he also wants to see folks cast an informed ballot.

“That's been our message the whole time,” McPeek said. “Just get the proper information out there to the community -- and we have a great community -- get the information out and let them come vote and make their decision.”

Charles Stout says he's done his research. He knows he simply can't afford to pay more.

“Social Security, fixed income ... you're up a creek,” Stout said. “Any more taxes, it's just bad news."

But Kathy Thompson says the levy is necessary, primarily to make sure local kids have the best tools available to them.

“This is just the center of our community,” Thompson said. “Just an important part.”

Either way, come tomorrow, this divided town will be united again.

“We're all one family,” McPeek said. “And no matter what happens tomorrow when we wake up, we're all going to be back on the same page.”



UPDATE 2/19/13
BOYD COUNTY, Ky. (WSAZ) -- Residents in the Fairview School District are heading to the polls Tuesday to decide the fate of a proposed 3 percent utility tax.

In December, the Fairview School Board approved the tax, but shortly after that vote, residents opposing the tax began a petition drive to put the tax vote on the ballot.

As a result, the special election is taking place in parts of 6 precincts in Boyd County. Voting ends at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

The tax would cost the average resident about $150 per year and bring in between $300,000 and $700,000 per year to the school district

The school board says they're one of only a handful of districts in the state without a utility tax and before long won't be able to operate without the fee.

Fairview has tried to pass this same 3-percent utility tax three times in the past. Each time, residents have petitioned against it and stopped it with a vote.

The district is responsible for paying for the special election which is expect to cost between $6,000 and $7,000.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 2/8/13
BOYD COUNTY, Ky. (WSAZ) -- After a second petition had to be signed, a special election will take place on February 19 to determine the fate of a utility tax.

The Fairview School Board approved a 3 percent utility tax in December. But shortly after that passed, residents opposing the tax filed a petition to put the tax vote on the ballot.

Last month, the petition was filed with 350 signatures. Only 147 were needed.

There was a concern with the wording on the petition, so a second one was created.

County Clerk Debbie Jones tells WSAZ.com that there were 351 signatures on the second petition. She says 313 of those were verified.

Jones tells WSAZ.com that they went through election training on Thursday and are ready for the special election on the 19.

The tax would cost the average resident about $150 a year and bring in between $300,000 and $700,000 a year to the school district

The school board says they're one of only a handful of districts in the state without a utility tax and before long, they won't be able to operate without the fee.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 1/31/13
BOYD COUNTY, Ky. (WSAZ) -- A legal compromise has folks opposing a 3 percent utility tax in the Fairview School District conducting another petition drive to put the issue on the ballot.

On December 26 the school board approved the tax, but shortly after that vote, residents opposing the tax began a petition drive to put the tax vote on the ballot.

Earlier this month, the Boyd County Clerk verified there were enough signatures to hold a special election on February 19.

Recently, the School Board took issue with some of the wording in the petition and filed an injunction to void the petition.

Boyd County Clerk Debbie Jones says that during a hearing earlier this week, both the school board and the group opposing the tax, agreed to a suggestion by the judge to change and clarify some of the wording in the petition.

The petitioners are now circulating a new petition.

Jones says the election remains scheduled for next month. She expects to receive the new petition in the next couple of days.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 1/15/13
BOYD COUNTY, Ky. (WSAZ) -- Residents in the Fairview School District will decide the fate of a 3 percent utility tax.

On December 26 the school board approved the tax, but shortly after that vote, residents opposing the tax began a petition drive to put the tax vote on the ballot.

Last week, the Boyd County Clerk verified there were enough signatures to hold a special election on February 19.

Monday night, Fairview School Board members voted to go ahead with the tax, which means voters will decide the issue.

The district is responsible for paying for the special election which is expect to cost between $6,000 and $7000.

Fairview has tried to pass this same 3 percent utility tax three times in the past. Each time, residents have petitioned against it and stopped it with a vote.

The tax would cost the average resident about $150 a year and bring in between $300,000 and $700,000 a year to the school district

The school board says they're one of only a handful of districts in the state without a utility tax and before long; they won't be able to operate without the fee.



ORIGINAL STORY 12/27/12
BOYD COUNTY, Ky. (WSAZ) -- A new tax is going on the books for folks in the Fairview school district in Boyd County, Kentucky. The school board approved a 3% utility tax Wednesday night.

“It'd make a world of difference for us,” Financial Officer Ernest Sharp said. “Number one, it would put us on par with surrounding districts who already have a utility tax.”

The tax will go into effect in February, unless neighbors collect enough signatures to recall it and hold a special election. Joe Weis was at the meeting Wednesday night. He is against the tax.

“Most all the people there were certainly giving their opinion that this tax was not needed and was not going to be passed,” Weis said.

Fairview has tried to pass this same 3% utility tax three times in the past. Each time, neighbors have petitioned against it and stopped it with a vote.

“The money's not there,” Weis’ wife Brenda said. “If it were there, and we could all afford it, then people would be happy to do that. But it's not there.”

They say many folks living in the area are on a fixed income and can't afford to pay more. But the school board says they're one of only a handful of districts in the state without a utility tax and before long, they won't be able to operate without it.

“This is a business,” Sharp said. “The surrounding school districts with newer facilities have something that they can use as a calling card that we don't have.”

Neighbors were also upset the hearing on the new tax was held the day after Christmas.

But the board says that date was simply two weeks after it was discussed at the regular meeting, and that is the typical time frame for hearings.

“It wasn't in any way you know, meant to, meant to fall on a tricky date or anything like that,” board member Jeff Preston said. “The scheduled meeting was a certain date. Therefore we had to schedule a hearing two weeks later.”

The Weises say they plan to start collecting signatures Friday.


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