State’s education funding method forces taxpayers to carry more of the burden

Nelson County Board of Education member

Monday, Sept. 19, 2022 — Our state school funding is broken, and Nelson County is an example of how the system puts an unfair burden on property owners.

This has a real impact on people’s lives. Let’s consider a three-bedroom, 1,500 square foot home in Nelson County valued around $100,000 a decade ago. Approximately $650 of their property tax bill went towards county schools. Due to a combination of rising property value and tax rates, these same owners are paying $950 now.

When visiting with my parents recently, the topic of property taxes came up and my father mentioned “We are all tired of the 4% increase every year.” All I could respond was that the state has left the district with no other choice. It’s the formula that works against counties such as Nelson.

SEEK is the 30-year-old formula that determines how much the state funds each student. But, as local property values increase, the contribution from the state decreases because the formula assumes how much local taxpayers should bear.

The 2022-23 formula establishes a base $4,100 per student. After the formula considers our local property value assessment, Nelson County is reduced to $2,814 per student in state funding. That puts us in the bottom 6% for state funding per student out of 171 districts.

This leaves the property owners of Nelson County to foot the bill.

Why has this not been reassessed in the last 30 years?

The original intent was to reduce the funding gap between districts throughout the state. SEEK achieved this early on. But in recent years the gap in per-pupil funding (local and state) between the richest and poorest districts has grown to nearly the same as it was three decades ago. In other words, a system that was intended to improve education equality across the state is no longer accomplishing this goal.

Districts like ours are carrying the burden.

Why does this matter?

Kentucky’s children deserve the best teachers, educational opportunities and facilities available. But the funding policies are making it increasingly difficult to sustain the growth required for future demands. As a mother of two children in Nelson County Schools, I demand this for my children.

What can we do?

As a Nelson County School Board Member, I have been working to understand the SEEK formula to inform my decision this month at the tax hearing. I have to ask why we have a formula that is so complicated that only a handful of people in our state even understand it. I have been working with state representatives to identify opportunities to fix this broken system.

This change will be hard and complicated. We need a simpler system that taxpayers can understand. It needs to be agile to adapt to our evolving economy. Most importantly, it needs to support our students’ educations so that they can contribute to our local economy and keep areas such as Nelson County great places to live for generations to come.

Editor’s Note: Ashley Hollingshead currently serves as a member of the Nelson County Board of Education.


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