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School board votes to hold tax rate level

The Grady County Board of Education is planning to hold the school tax rate at 14.2 mills and, even though it technically is a tax hike, the school system is facing a projected $377,969 deficit in its 2016-2017 operating budget.
Because of slight growth of $3,995,624 in Grady County’s net tax digest, a mill of tax generates more money than it did last year. By leaving the school tax rate at 14.2 mills, the system will collect approximately $52,904 more in ad valorem taxes than it did in 2015. This results in a tax increase of less than one percent.
However, leaving the tax rate unchanged also leaves the school system with a projected deficit of $377,969. School officials anticipate making up the deficit with money from the system’s cash reserves.
On Monday, the school board met in a called meeting to review minor budget adjustments and adopt the budget and a tentative tax rate.
Finance officer Dan Broome updated board members on the revisions to the budget, including the addition of $178,000 for two new school buses. The school system will receive a third new bus to be purchased with funds the school district has earned from the state.
The new buses will also be outfitted with air conditioning at a cost of approximately $8,000 per bus.
Grady County Schools Superintendent Dr. Kermit Gilliard said Monday he is waiting to see what the final numbers are for the cash reserves when the books are closed for the 2015-2016 fiscal year before making a recommendation for a one-time incentive bonus for school system employees.
According to the superintendent, a bonus of one percent for all employees will cost the school system approximately $225,000.
The superintendent said he anticipates bringing forward a recommendation on the bonus at either the August or September board meeting.
“I am pleased that we were able to keep the millage at the same rate it has been for the past five years. We certainly have needs and could use the additional funds that raising the millage would bring into the system, however, we know that many of the property owners have not seen an increase in their income. I, like the board, realize that many of our taxpayers/property owners are retired and on fixed or limited incomes. For these reasons, I am not recommending an increase in the millage,” Dr. Gilliard said this week.
Board members expressed their support for maintaining the millage rate at 14.20 mills rather than dropping it to 14.187 mills to avoid a tax increase and public hearings.
“Not knowing what the state is going to do with regard to the funding formula next year, I think we should hold it at 14.2 mills,” Board member John White said.
Board member Teresa Gee Harris agreed and stated, “It’s best to leave it where it is even if we do have to have public hearings.”
“I’m good as long as we’re not raising it. We are doing what the system needs and I believe we have been fiscally responsible,” board member Jeff Worsham said.
Worsham also noted that the only people who would be paying more in school taxes were people whose property values had increased over last year. According to Broome, the increase in taxes on a home valued at $100,000 would only be 52 cents and on a non-homestead property with a fair market value of $250,000 the increase would be $1.30.
The board voted unanimously to tentatively adopt the $40,301,365 operating budget and tentatively set the millage rate at 14.2 mills.
A series of three public hearings will be held on the proposed tax increase with two being held Tuesday, Aug. 9 at 7:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., and the final one on Tuesday, Aug. 16 at 7:30 a.m. The board is scheduled to hold a called meeting at 8 a.m. on the 16th to vote on final adoption. All of the hearings and called meetings will be held at the school system’s VanLandingham Center, 203 North Broad Street.
“This doesn’t include the incentive bonus does it?” Worsham asked.
“No, but we anticipate paying for it out of fund balance,” Superintendent Gilliard said.

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