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County’s tax digest drops more than $10 million

Grady County’s tax digest decreased by over $10 million from 2014, which means a mill of tax will bring less tax revenue than in the past.
However, Grady County Board of Education members expressed a consensus to maintain the current school tax rate at 14.20 mills and dip into the school system’s cash reserves to balance its 2015-2016 operating budget.
School board members met Tuesday night in a called meeting to finalize the budget and go over revisions made by Superintendent Dr. Kermit Gilliard and Finance Officer Dan Broome.
The school system is expected to have just over $1 million in additional revenue in the new fiscal year compared to last year with the biggest jump coming from an $859,867 reduction in austerity cuts from the state. The school system will also receive an additional $164,976.00 in state funds for equalization, which is paid to poorer school systems in the state.
While income is projected to increase, the school board is also budgeting to spend more money than last year by about $1.3 million.
Included in the proposed budget is an increase in supplements for local teachers that rewards teachers with over 25 years of experience the most.
Broome has also included four maintenance projects that total $135,350, a half-time P.E. teacher at Washington Middle School, and $20,000 for a new sign at Cairo High School.
With the final revisions, the budget deficit, if the millage rate remains 14.20 mills, will be $285,177.
“You basically have three options. We could go back into the budget and identify some cuts; you could increase the millage; or you could cover the deficit with fund balance if that’s what you are comfortable with,” Broome told board members Tuesday night.
Broome has projected the cash reserves to be $3.3 million, but he said by the time he closes the books for June 30, 2015 that balance could easily be $3.6 million.
If the board did not cut the budget and did not cover the deficit with fund balance, it would take a millage rate of 14.8 mills to balance the budget, Broome projected.
The school system finance officer said the biggest drop in the county’s tax digest was in the value of motor vehicles, which dropped from $45,349,220 in 2014 to $35,754,050 in 2015. Timber on the county’s tax digest also dropped from $2,087,440 to $1,286,968.
Exemptions from the digest increased slightly from $158,336,371 to $158,364,691, which is far less than $189,532,467 in 2010.
By maintaining a 14.20 school tax rate, the system will collect $146,834 less in school taxes from county taxpayers.
Out of the $32,400,070 in anticipated revenues only $6,935,967 will come from local school ad valorem taxes.
“If you were looking for a recommendation tonight from Dan and me it would be to leave the millage rate at 14.2 and use fund balance to make up the difference,” Dr. Gilliard said Tuesday night.
“I’m glad you feel that way,” board member Jeff Worsham commented.
The school board did not take action Tuesday night, but indicated unanimous consensus to maintain the current tax rate. Dr. Gilliard said the board will vote on the tentative millage rate and tentatively adopt the budget at the July board meeting, which is Tuesday, July 14.
The board did vote to call for a called meeting at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday, July 29 to vote on the final adoption of the budget and to set the 2015 millage rate.

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