MURRAY – The Calloway County Board of Education on Thursday passed the tax rate for the coming year, in addition to discussing concerns of the dangers of vaping for students attending in the district.
The board passed a general fund tax rate of 46.3 cents per $100 of assessed value on real property, and 46.3 cents on personal property, a 4% increase from the previous year’s rate. In the 2019 fiscal year, the general fund tax levied was 45.3 cents on real property, and 45.3 cents on personal property. The new rate is expected to produce $8,148,773.86 in revenue for the district.
No members of the public spoke in opposition or in favor of the tax increase during the public hearing portion of the meeting Thursday evening.
During his report, Calloway County Superintendent Tres Settle discussed concerns he had over the increasing reports of vaping-related illnesses emerging across the country in recent weeks. As of Tuesday, six individuals had died as a result of these illnesses, according to CNN.
Settle said he had been talking with Calloway County High School Principal Chris King about the issue, and wanted to share his thoughts with the board Thursday.
“I wanted to share some concerns I’ve had and some discussions I have been having with Mr. King centered around our students in our high schools vaping,” Settle said. “This is an epidemic in our country; it is an epidemic in Calloway County and it is an epidemic in Calloway County High School. We have got to be proactive in both trying to educate our younger populations in our middle schools, but we also have to be more proactive in trying to use deterrents for kids that are currently using.”
Settle said his concern was not only for students vaping nicotine products, but for those who might be using THC – the intoxicating chemical in marijuana – cartridges as well.
“These are undetectable by odor,” Settle said. “I sat down with Mr. King and my school resource officer and they gave me a little bit of education about what is going on. We have watches now, smartwatches, that pop up and you can actually vape from those. They’re selling hoodies and marketing that to kids where the strings on the hoodies have vaping devices in them. They are marketing these things to teenagers. So we have a problem.”
Tommy Futrell, transportation director with the district, said there have been issues of kids using vaping devices on the school bus. In addition, Area Technology Center Principal Dan Hicks said there had been an issue with students vaping during a recent fire drill.
“We had a fire drill the other day and we had two students vaping when the teacher turned his back to come in from the fire drill,” Hicks said.
Settle said the issue extends to parents in the district as well.
“When we have called parents and let them know that their child is vaping and we confiscated the device, (some of) the parents defend it and say it is their device and want the device back so that they can use it,” Settle said. “When I say it is an epidemic, I mean it; we have parents that are supportive of it and providing it. And there is just such little research (on the physical effects of vaping).”
Settle said the issue is a serious concern for the district, and told the board that better intervention with the students is needed and that other devices that might be used to detect vaping in bathrooms or other areas could be considered in the future.