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By VINCE LUECKE
TELL CITY – A tax issue that has generated debate among the state’s legislators created a disagreement among members of the Tell City-Troy Township School Board Tuesday. The bone of contention wasn’t over the pros or cons of a possible phaseout of Indiana’s business personal property or how any lost funding should be replaced.
Instead, the debate was over whether the issue should have been brought to a vote since it was not on the evening’s original agenda.
Three board members, Board President Larry Kleeman, Mack Cail and Dr. Gene Ress, gave their support to a resolution supporting a coalition of groups asking state legislators to replace revenue that would be lost if the state partially or fully does away with its tax on business personal property. House Bill 1001 is working its way through the legislative process in the Indiana House and Senate. 1
The remaining two local school board members, Sherri Flynn and Randy Cole, voted against the resolution. Their opposition, they repeatedly said Tuesday, wasn’t toward the issue itself, but how it was placed on the agenda.
Kleeman asked to have the issue placed on the agenda at the start of the meeting and the amended agenda was approved by the board ununanimously.
However, after commenting on the issue and raising concern over the $361,000 Tell City-Troy Township Schools could lose if the tax is fully phased out, Cail and Kleeman offered a motion to approve the resolution. That brought opposition from Flynn, who said the issue should not be voted on because board members had not been presented information before the meeting. Further she said the agenda item approved by the school board was discussion of the state’s business personal property tax, not a resolution of support by the school board.
“No one ever said we were going to vote on it,” Flynn said, arguing the board should not consider voting on issues on which all board members have not had time to research. Flynn said she hadn’t been given the courtesy of being able to review the same information Kleeman and Cail had seen and discussed earlier in the week
She said board members should be “given the courtesy” of seeing material that will be discussed at the meeting that is not included in the packet of material provided by the school district.
Cail implied board members should be familiar with the issue since the Indiana School Board Association has regularly emailed board members information on HB 1001 and its effects.
He also countered that the issue was too important to wait and that the legislative process would wrap up before the board meets again.
“We’re losing money. I’m going to do what I can,” he said.
Flynn and Cole objected to the vote being held, saying it violated board policy, and Kleeman repeatedly said he had noted the objections but believed the vote could go forward. He, Cail and Ress voted yes.
“It’s an illegal vote,” Flynn said.
“You can note your objections,” Kleeman responded.
In an email to the News, Flynn asked why Kleeman and Cail had discussed the issue without informing other board members.
“The one thing that is not an issue is whether the proposed resolution was good or not. Of course we have to take a long, hard look at Indiana taxation and how it impacts state and local government. I didn’t say I agreed with or didn’t agree with the proposed resolution put in front of us at the last second to vote upon. How would I know whether I agreed or not, I didn’t get to read it. I said I want to read it first. I want to research it first,” she said.
Flynn said any board member should be able to bring anything up that he or she wishes at any meeting. “However, no board member should be asking for a vote on behalf of the corporation, and especially not ask the board to go so far as to make a resolution, without first giving the other board members the opportunity to read or research what they are being asked to approve.”
At their Jan. 14 meeting, board members reorganized for the year by electing Larry Kleeman president. Mack Cail nominated Kleeman for the post and Flynn seconded it. Randy Cole nominated Flynn for the position. Kleeman received votes from Cail, Dr. Gene Ress, Flynn and himself. Cole cast his vote for Flynn.
For vice president, Cail was elected after being nominated by Kleeman. Flynn nominated Cole for vice president. Cail received votes from himself, Ress and Kleeman. Flynn and Cole cast votes for Cole.
For secretary, Flynn nominated Ress. He inially declined. Cail then nominated Cole, who also declined. Ress then nominated Flynn, who also declined. Ress eventually agreed to serve in the role, despite saying he had preferred to adhere to his tradition of not holding an officer’s role.
In other annual reorganization business Jan. 14, the board did the following:
• Kept monthly meetings at 7 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month. Meetings are held in the Tell City Junior-Senior High School Media Center.
• Designated the superintendent and treasurer as the people authorized to use the school corporation’s safe-deposit box.
• Appointed John Werner as the school corporation’s attorney.
• Appointed Kleeman to serve as the board’s liaison with the Indiana School Boards Association.
• Agreed to schedule work sessions as needed.
• Appointed Debbie Elder as the school corporation’s treasurer.
• Designated the Perry County News as the school district’s official newspaper.
• Accepted conflict of interest statements from board members and administrators for 2014.