FOX19 Investigates: Small town with big school taxes

SILVER GROVE, KY (FOX19) - Larry Bush has lived in Silver Grove, a small town in Northern Kentucky, for nearly a decade.  Before that, Bush's mom lived in the same house there for 30 years.  But Bush says many of the 1,100 Silver Grove residents are packing their bags for a place where the school tax rate isn't the highest in the state.

"The point is there's people in this town that have to leave that have been here for years and years because they can't afford it," Bush said.

FOX19 investigated and found Silver Grove residents pay $12.93/1,000 for school taxes. We compared that rate with other nearby communities.

Residents of Dayton, Kentucky pay $10.29/1,000. Bellevue residents pay $7.65/1,000. The Campbell County Schools tax rate is less than Silver Grove's at $5.92/1,000.

Larry Bush pays $102 in state taxes, $126 for county taxes and $1,086 for Silver Grove schools.

At the same time, FOX19 has found Silver Grove schools rank in the bottom four percent of schools in the state of Kentucky.

"As far as the tax rate, it is high, but I think our kids are worth it and the school will be here as long as the community wants it," Ken Ellis, the Superintendent of Silver Grove Schools said.

Silver Grove Schools take up one city block, with 250 students from kindergarten through twelfth grade. Ellis has the job of keeping the school afloat, despite the largest business in Silver Grove getting a $10 million tax abatement.  Ellis also points to state funding that's shrinking.

"What could lower that tax rate is the state coming through with their end of the bargain. They are supposed to give us more than what we get and they're not," Ellis said.

The school's principal, Wesley Murray points out that while test scores are low, they're improving drastically. The elementary, middle and high schools are all considered among the highest progressing in the state.

"Is that where we want to end up? Of course not. Are we pleased with where we are going?  Of course we are," Murray said.

And Murray is especially pleased with the graduation rate. Last year, nearly 80 percent of Silver Grove graduates went to their top choice for college.

"I would say nearly 100 percent of the students going to college now are first generation college students so that's a major swing. Major impact this little school has on students," Murray said.

But Larry Bush points to simple math.  He feels his tax rate versus the school's performance just doesn't add up. "I think it's ridiculous," Bush said.

To dissolve Silver Grove schools would take a unanimous vote by the school board, then the students would be absorbed by the Campbell County School system.

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