Board of Education tables redistricting until after 2014 election
By STACIE BARTON
The Muhlenberg County Board of Education held a special noon meeting on July 29 to discuss school board district boundaries, proposed by the Muhlenberg County Board of Elections on July 21. The board tabled the decision to adopt the new map in a 3-1 vote, saying there was not adequate time to consider the changes being proposed.
New boundaries are proposed due to redistricting required after the 2010 census. Officials at the Muhlenberg County Clerk's office said they first brought a rough draft of the redistricting map to the Board of Education in October.
"The precinct numbers are on one of these maps, the actual people that live in the precincts, and it goes from as much as 250 people to as many as 2,000,” said board attorney Dan Thomas.
While the board is aware of the need to divide the population into districts and precincts that are as even as possible, members said they believe there was not enough time allowed for them to do this.
Reading from a statement prepared by Thomas, board member Margaret Williams said the board was not aware of the map until July 21 and that it materially changes the five school district boundaries.
“As a result of those changes identified on the map received on July 21, there is not allowed sufficient time for the (Muhlenberg County Board of Education) to adequately identify acceptable boundary divisions for all of the five board districts at this time,” Williams read.
The statement said that adopting the map would cause problems with the Kentucky Department of Education, which is in the process of searching for someone to fill the empty District 4 seat, vacated in May.
“To do so will create an unreasonable, material, unforeseen problem with the KDE's identification of a qualified person to appoint to the Board 4 District, who would reside in that current district, and does not allow a reasonable time to meet the Aug. 1 deadlines,” the statement read.
The Aug. 1 deadline is when the Board of Education must submit any changes in any district boundary to the KDE, and to notify the county clerk of any precise changes in any district boundaries for an upcoming election, Thomas' statement said.
The County Clerk's office proposed a map that mirrors the magisterial districts, approved by the Fiscal Court in 2011 and first used in the May primary election, according to election officials.
Board vice-chairman Dr. Kelly Tarter, who voted against tabling the plan, argued that they are required by law, to make changes to create equal districts every 10 years, after a census.
“I think we have to keep our precincts, without splitting, if practical,” Tarter said. “There is a plan out there that has done that. It's been approved by magistrates... I think a lot of people have looked at this and see that this is probably the only way to do it fairly, to keep all districts equal.”
By not accepting the redrawn districts the Board of Education is opening themselves up to litigation, because the districts are not equally divided, explained board attorney Brent Yonts, in a recent interview.
Tarter expressed his concern, saying “If there's a plan in place that serves all purposes – we have five equal districts and all the precincts are intact, it's gonna be really hard-pressed to overcome that in a court of law.”
Tarter said he was concerned that the board would “cause a lot of problems” if they didn't approve the redistricting changes by the Aug. 1 deadline.
“I understand people don't want to change the lines... but sometimes you just have to do what the law says you have to do,” Tarter said.
Thomas said the board will revisit redistricting after the November election. He said they would consider the matter again in 2015.