BoE to tax to the max

Tue, 08/18/2009 - 4:08pm
By: Ben Nelms

Lowering bond repay at same time will result in smaller total school tax bills

The Fayette County Board of Education is proposing to raise one tax and lower another, for a net decrease in what you pay.

The board wants to raise the maintenance and operation millage rate to the 20 mill ceiling allowed by law and offset the impact by cutting the debt service millage rate by .75 mills, for a net decrease of one-half mill. The millage rate will be adopted Aug. 26.

The proposed 20 mill M&O millage rate, up from the current 19.75 mills, includes a projected collection rate of 92 percent.

Comptroller Laura Brock said collections required to meet the budget total $90.591 million. She said the net M&O tax digest is expected to decrease by a quarter of a percent, or $12.435 million.

The increase to 20 mills is expected to generate $92.170 million. The $1.579 million difference between the required budget amount and estimated collections would provide a cushion on collections and would establish a reserve for future cuts, Brock said.

The debt service millage is currently positioned at 4.17 mills. Brock proposed reducing it to 3.42, or .75 mills.

A portion of the school system’s debt service is now paid by the 1-cent sales tax passed by voters last year. That change, along with a recent bond refinance, provided the means to reduce the bond millage.

Without the 1-cent sales tax and the refinancing of the bonds the required millage rate would have been 4.45 mills based on an estimated collection rate of 92 percent, Brock said.

If approved later this month, the 20 mill rate meets the ceiling that can be levied by a school board in Georgia. To exceed that limit would require a countywide voter referendum.

The discussion on the millage proposals was preceded by references by Superintendent John DeCotis on the state of the economy and the numerous state-imposed budget cuts in recent years.

“Since fiscal year 2003 the state of Georgia has made over $35.6 million in austerity reductions to the Fayette County School System due to constraints on the state budget. In recent weeks the governor has called for an additional cut to education of 3 percent and an amount equal to three days’ furlough. This total cut is approximately $4 million to the fiscal year 2010 budget. Additionally, we anticipate additional cuts as the year progresses,” according to a statement on the school system website.

“The Fayette County Board of Education has taken every reasonable measure to reduce spending while trying to uphold the quality of education provided the young people of our county. We ask that all our citizens understand the difficulty the board members and staff have encountered in trying to balance the educational needs and the imperative to protect taxpayers from excessive taxation,” DeCotis said.

Some on the board held a brief discussion Monday night concerning the possible $1.579 million difference in the M&O budget and under what auspices that money could be spent.

It appeared from the discussion that the $1.579 million cushion could be spent on items already budgeted, such as fuel costs, but cannot be spent on items that had not been previously budgeted unless the budget were amended.

Speaking during the public comments portion of the regular meeting and in regard to future state budget cuts, Fayette County Association of Educators representative Joseph Jarrell suggested that the school board look at potential cuts at the county office.

Public hearings on the millage rate will also be held Aug. 24 at 8 a.m. and on Aug. 26 at 4 p.m. at which time the rate will be adopted.

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Submitted by localyocal on Wed, 08/19/2009 - 11:54am.

If you don't vote for the SPLOST we have to fire 200+ BOE employee's. SPLOST passed still cut back the BOE workforce. Now a second and maximum millage rate increase, it would go higher if the state would let them. This whole raising one to lower another only to have it raised to a higher mark the following year because somebody can't balance a budget is ridiculous. Enough is enough, work with what you have and stop bleeding the taxpayers.

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