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      Bowling Green to decide tax issue

      The list of tax rates for PIke County schools *if * Bowling Green's tax issue is passed. As you can see, even with the 60 cent tax increase Bowling Green is still the lowest taxing district in the area.

      Bowling Green voters will decide the future of their school district when they head to the polls Tuesday.

      For the second time this year, the Bowling Green School District is asking the community to raise property taxes by 60 cents per one hundred dollars assessed valuation.

      To put it in perspective, if passed, it would add on an extra $9.50 a month or $114 a year for a resident with a $100 thousand home.

      School officials say this tax increase is necessary to keep the district afloat during tough times.

      How would describe the position of the Bowling Green School district right now?

      Bowling Green Superintendent Michael Gray said, "I would describe the financial picture of Bowling Green as bleak as we are still in deficit spending this year. In the near future it looks like we could be further in deficit spending with increased costs so I would describe the financial outlook as bleak."

      Superintendent Gray says the district has been operating in the red for several years and face a whopping million dollar shortfall for the upcoming school year. Based on that deficit, the school board recently made 800 thousand dollars in cuts including letting go of nine and a half teachers and three administrators, not to mention eliminating a school bus route.

      But those reductions aren't enough to put the budget back in the black.

      The Bowling Green School District also faces other fiscal challenges. The cost of health benefits for employees is going up in the coming year. Meanwhile the school district is facing decreasing enrollment, which means less state funding in the coming years. If that weren't enough the district also has to worry about aging boiler systems in two of its buildings and an aging fleet of buses needing repairs.

      Although Bowling Green R-1 is the largest district in Pike County, it has the lowest property tax rate in the area. Superintendent Gray says even if voters approve the rate hike, his district will be in last place.

      But school board members say the proposed tax increase will help keep the district competitive with districts in the surrounding area.

      Why is it so vital?

      Gray said, "I think its vital in so many areas. We've been struggling to have teacher pay at equal or somewhat close to surrounding areas which means we're going to have trouble retaining our good quality staff and attract new staff as they retire. So its important because these people are where the rubber meets the road in the educational process. They make or break an educational system for students."

      If approved, the tax would generate more than half a million dollars a year...and no more cuts would have to be made. If it doesn't pass, the board will have to make some more tough decisions, either to again operate in the red or make further cuts. And if that happens nothing will be taken off the table.

      Gray said, "I know it's a tough time and difficult for people right now but unfortunately that calls for tough decisions."

      Students and teachers' groups as well as the district's booster club are working to bolster voter turn-out in the community in favor of the tax.

      Meanwhile opponents of the issue feel it's too much to ask during a recession.

      Superintendent Gray says he understands that concern, but says the district is also trying to weather the tight times.