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Council Budget Committee Rejects Property Tax Increase in Contrast to JCPS Hike

In contrast to Jefferson County Public Schools, the Louisville Metro Council Budget Committee rejected any increase to local property taxes in a unanimous vote this week. Mayor Greg Fischer announced last week that he planned to introduce an ordinance keeping real estate tax rates at the same level. Under the ordinance, the property tax rate for home owners in the old city limits or Urban Services District will remain at 36.66 cents per $100 of assessed value. Those living in the unincorporated areas of Metro Louisville will remain at 12.55 cents per $100. Council Democrats and Republicans praised the decision, and Council President Jim King, D-10, took the vote as an opportunity to contrast with the school board's decision to raise taxes. "Our taxpayers deserve a break in light of the annual JCPS tax increases. We believe in letting economic activity and new jobs drive tax receipts—not higher rates," he says. The 1.4 percent JCPS tax hike was a compromise after sharp protests from residents to a 3.1 percent proposed increase. But the smaller increase was still met with criticism at the conclusion of the school board meeting this week. District 2 school board member David Jones Jr. blamed state cuts to public education and defended the smaller hike as a need revenue stream, however. “Everybody on the board supports the strategy," Jones told WFPL's Devin Katayama. "Everybody believes that we have a team that is capable of executing the strategy. The difficult question in these times is how to pay for it." The $1.2 billion JCPS  budget is slightly more than the $900 million operating budget. City lawmakers did voice criticisms of the mayor's budget plan over funding of road paving, street cleanings and other concerns. But the message from council leaders is clearly aimed at showing they prefer economic growth over taxation, and that the city is living within its financial means. "The people of this community are facing enough challenges," says Councilman Kelly Downard, R-16, who is vice-chair of the budget committee. "I am happy to co-sponsor an ordinance that shows Metro can live within our current budget constraints and doesn’t need higher taxes or additional revenue." The ordinance moves to the full council for a vote on August 22.