Saturday, July 29, 2000

No tax increase seen for schools


Covington superintendent to recommend holding line

By Lori Hayes
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — Taxpayers most likely won't have to dig any deeper into their pockets this fall to help the ailing Covington school district.

        Interim Superintendent Jack Moreland said Friday that, at this point, he does not plan to recommend that the Covington Board of Education raise school taxes for the 2000-2001 school year.

        Each year, a school district can either maintain the amount of revenue it receives from taxes or increase that amount by 4 percent without going to the voters.

        A state audit earlier this year blasted the school district's budgeting process. State officials questioned how money was spent and criticized the lack of input from staff, school councils and the public.

        In response, the Covington district has set up a budget review committee that includes staff, outside auditors and budget officials. The first task of the committee, Mr. Moreland said, is to review how district dollars are being spent.

        “I cannot in good conscience ask the taxpayers of this district for more money until I can say the money we have is being used in the best way,” he said.

        On the heels of the highly critical audit, the district is planning substantial changes in the upcoming year. Money, however, is not an impediment, he said.

        With 4,700 students, the Covington district's annual budget is about $39 million. Mr. Moreland said that is enough money to support its programs and the needed changes.

        The board is expected to vote on the tax rate for the 2000-2001 year at its Aug. 24 meeting. The current rate — one of the highest in the state — is 89.1 cents per $100 assessed value for real estate and tangible property and 85.9 cents per $100 for motor vehicles.

        The district does not levy occupational, utility or excise taxes, said Sherry Boone, Covington's finance department secretary.

        The district is preparing an action plan to respond to the state audit. It will be submitted to school board members Friday, Mr. Moreland said.

        The board will review the response at its Aug. 10 meeting and forward it to the state on Aug. 15. State officials have said they will respond within a week.

       



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