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School board votes to keep tax rate unchanged

The Grady County Board of Education voted to tentatively set the ad valorem tax millage rate for 2009 at 12.90 mills, which is the same rate as last year.
However, the school board has the option of lowering the millage rate slightly and still collect enough tax money to fund its $29,937,460 general fund operating budget. The system total budget, including school nutrition program federal programs and lottery programs, stands at $38,398,463.
By leaving the millage rate unchanged at 12.90 mills when applied to the county’s 2009 tax digest of $61,442,818 the system will collect an additional $252,779 in ad valorem taxes. The school system pays Grady County 2 1/2 percent tax collection fee which reduces the additional taxes collected to $188,463.
Finance Officer Dan Broome presented board members with a breakdown of options including lower millage rates.
According to Broome, the board could lower the millage rate to 12.8 mills and still collect an additional $128,554. A rate of 12.7 mills would generate a $68,646 surplus and at 12.6 mills a budgeted surplus of $8,738 would be realized.
Dropping the millage rate any lower than 12.5 mills would result in a deficit, according to the school system finance officer.
Superintendent Dr. Tommy Pharis recommended the board set a tentative rate of 12.9 mills and decide over the course of the next two weeks whether or not to maintain the current millage rate or reduce it.
Once a tentative rate has been  set state law requires the board to give final adoption to that rate or a lower rate, but not a rate higher than the tentative rate advertised.
“We’ve said all along we would not go above the 12.90 mills. We can set 12.9 mills tentative and you could go down, but you can’t go up. That will give us a couple weeks to examine the implications of a lower rate,” Dr. Pharis said.
According to the superintendent, if the school board lowers the millage rate the amount of funding from local taxes required by the state increases and at the same time the state funding returned to the system through equalization grants would decrease.
Dr. Pharis said he would present the board with calculations illustrating what the budget impact would be should the board vote to lower the millage rate below the current level.
“We all know there is the possibility of additional cuts from the state down the line and if additional furlough days are necessary we have talked about the possibility of funding one or more of those days so I recommend going with the 12.9 mills,” the superintendent said.
The board voted unanimously to maintain the current tax rate. A called meeting scheduled for 7:30 a.m. on Thursday, October 8 at the school system central office will be held at which time the board will vote on a final millage rate.

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