The Meade County School Board held a regular scheduled monthly meeting on Jan. 14. It was a meeting that had more members of the community in attendance than normal, as the school district has been at the center of several hot button topics around the county.
A report was given on construction updates around the district. The addition at Payneville has progressed to the point that they are getting ready to start building the walls. Superintendent John Millay spoke about how the additions, including a full gym, will provide the same equity for the students and their experience equal to that of all other schools in Meade County.
The track and football field project has been approved by the state, and the bond sale will begin on Jan. 28, allowing work to begin. The project will expand the track to eight lanes, make it handicap accessible and long-standing drainage issues will be remedied. The current goal is for the track and field to be done by Aug. 1.
School board meetings and Fiscal Court regular meetings take place on the same night, thirty minutes apart. The board and community members discussed changing the meeting so people are able to attend both meetings without conflict. It was decided, starting in February, school board meetings will now be held on the second Monday of every month at 7:30 p.m.
Guy Garcia, a concerned citizen, brought up the fact that he attended the first part of the fiscal court meeting before coming over to this meeting. He said there are twelve taxing bodies in Meade County, plus three cities, and it would be nice to have these meetings of taxing bodies deconflicted so the community can attend both. He went on to say, “There is an awful lot of rumor, innuendo…who exempted Nucor from their property taxes? I always thought you guys levied the property taxes pertaining to the school. Did you all exempt it?”
Millay said the work force cabinet for the state is always recruiting large industry and jobs. He then proceeded to read KRS 103.285 which he says is the tool the state used in this case. The KRS he recited states that land owned by a city or county and leased to an industrial concern shall be tax exempt as all other public property used for public purposes. He said the loss to the schools is about $40,000 due to the loss of land in the current tax base to Nucor, and the $75,000 payment in lieu of taxes would more than cover the loss. Board member Allison Allen stated documents she pulled from the courthouse shows that just the land Nucor bought from Monument takes $72,725 out of the school tax, not counting the other properties that were removed.
After over 20 minutes of Millay talking in circles, as one citizen described his explanation, incoherently bouncing from point to point, often never staying on topic long enough to really complete a full thought but not stopping long enough to end the never ending run on sentence, Garcia cut back in. He stated, “I’m not anti Nucor. I don’t like the way information flowed because there are a lot of people out there who are very antsy about what is going on. Did we lose any money on this deal?”
Millay said no. Allen quipped back, “Well that’s an opinion,” to which Millay responded, “No, it’s a fact, basically.”
He went on to explain the promise of possible future gains that may come as a result of businesses following Nucor as he recited the parable of the golden goose to the room.
Allen went on to say, “I just feel money in the hand is better than whatever they are promising you down the road. I don’t want to bet on a promise.”
As other people questioned accepting the proposal, Millay said he never had the opportunity to negotiate. He met with members of the fiscal court and the county attorney who were working with Nucor and the state, verified what they were losing, what was being offered in return, but never had the option to say they wanted more.
Millay expressed they were not at the table for those negotiations. Board member Dana Flaherty asked that it be clarified that the $75,000 was not negotiated by Millay but was appointed.
Millay revealed that when he went to the meeting, he pointed to the county attorney and said, “you’re the legal person, in your estimate, you were privy to this and I wasn’t, were things followed and is this amount right?...I have to trust the laws were followed the best that they could.”
He went on to say the figure the state will receive is $300,000 and that $75,000 of that will come to the schools. The other $225,000 is funding bonds for a sewer plant for the city of Brandenburg.
Another citizen was called on by Millay because she had signed up to ask a question to which she replied, “I think I’m more confused now than when I came in, but the way I understand it, this was going to happen with or without the board, correct?”
Board member Brian Honaker answered, “It happened without the board.” And Millay added, “We were not at the table on this.”
Another guest from the community, Justin Flaherty, stated, “There are two high ranking elected officials in this county who both used your name when saying this deal was negotiated by you. Now that you all are available to go to the Fiscal Court meetings, it would do the rest of the citizens in this county very good if you could be there and they could be there and we put all these people in the same room and loose all this confusion.”
Millay had no response other than explaining to the room how certain words have different connotations for different people.
Another resident then changed the subject when she implored, “There are a lot of children in this community dealing with anxiety, depression, and confusion, and I think what went on at homecoming is not going to help with confusion, anxiety and those kinds of issues. Was this even sent home to the parents that this was going to be an option?”
Millay proclaimed, “We have to be careful because, one, there is confidentiality, and some of these are protected by law. We don’t just go solicit and say, ‘how would everyone like this?’.” He explained they have to look not only at their policy and procedures but what the laws are.
He went on to discuss the diversity of the schools, Tinker tests, his admiration of the civil rights movement along with the history of slavery, women’s suffrage and the evolution of society and the courts.
She questioned, “Well, since we don’t want to discriminate, when a church wants to do a Love Loud event in the parking lot, are we going to keep getting banished to the back end where…”
Millay cut her off before she could finish, stating, “I don’t know who did any banishing, but all I can say is that every case is a little different.”
Concerns were brought up in regard to sharing bathrooms and locker rooms. Millay said they would have to wait for issues to arise and be tested in the courts to provide guidance to the schools. Brian Honaker added, “Those children are protected under Title IX so it’s not a policy the board can even vote to change one way or another at this time.”
The meeting concluded with the board going into executive session to discuss the interim replacement for Dr. Millay as superintendent as he announced his retirement as of Feb. 29.