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Slight millage rate reduction may be costly for BOE

Chris Buchanan

A slight dip in the board of education millage this year may not save tax payers a huge amount of money for the coming year, but it will likely cost the school system about $90,000 officials told the Enterprise this week.

The board approved the millage at Monday’s regular meeting at 17.983 mills for maintenance and operation of the school system plus a .53 mill bond retirement for a grand total school board millage of 18.513.

But the operating millage actually dropped from 18 mills the previous year and that slight drop has been roughly estimated to cost the county nearly $100,000 in taxes for the coming year according to assistant superintedent Read Carter.

The move was a requirement, Carter said, who explained that the equation used to figure the school board’s maximum allowed millage dropped that amount slightly since last year.  Going any higher would require approval from the state legislature.

The decrease in funds represents a 1.07 percent net decrease in local tax money of about $60,226 plus a loss in equalization from the state. It also represents the first decrease in local tax dollars in the school board budget from one year to the next since 2010 when the local contribution dropped by $90,968.

Current school taxes pay $5,591,771 of the overall budget with the state picking up the remaining $20,198,588 of the overall budget. Another $589,652 will come from other sources.

For the coming year instruction will make up the largest part of the overall budget with $16,931,634 of the total budget.  Distant second and third are maintenance and operations and student transportation respectively which together make up over $4.5 million of the total budget.

At $63,966, professional learning makes up the smallest budget area.  A $167,753 tax collection fee will also be taken out of school system revenues to cover the actual collection costs by the tax office.

Though the numbers are finally starting to come in for the school board budget and millage the existence of an operating fund balance for the end of  the fiscal year is still not quite as certain.  Kerry Mathie brought up at the meeting that the fund balance numbers from one month to the next dropped from over $1.6 million on paper to being $400,000 in the red in this month’s report.

But Carter said the numbers were incomplete and that, despite the seemingly dire drop, the negative balance does show up until all the final numbers are plugged in.

The school board ended last year with a $16,000 negative fund balance last year but Carter said he was hopeful that the balance could be positive once again this year.

The school board will finalize its millage at a called meeting on Thursday, Aug. 29 at 6 p.m. at the board of education offices.

The school board also agreed to once again make payments to the Three Rivers Library Group after several months of questioning as to what the group actually provides.  As it turns out, those funds were less for the group itself and more for the local Brantley County Library which falls under its umbrella.  Tight budget constraints for the year coupled with the loss of one county in the library system had pushed the local library’s dues up for the year and library officials had previously stated that the loss of the school system’s estimated $2,500 annual contribution would have been particularly hard.

The school system’s decision to possibly pull out of a partnership spanning over a half century came when the officials at the head of the TRRLS couldn’t easily explain what they still provided to the school system with the bookmobile no longer in service.  The local representatives of the Brantley County Library came to multiple meetings recently to help fill in those gaps and demonstrate their benefit to county students.

A third of the night’s action items also dealt with state mandated updates to several board policies as often occur in the first months of school.  A total of nine items passed second readings including equal opportunity employment, professional personnel recruitment, awarding units of credit and acceptance of transfer credit and grades, professional learning opportunities, harassment, drug-free workplace, the federal family and medical leave act, concussion management and  professional personnel evaluation – the latter of which was rescinded in lieu of the new policy.

In other business, the board:

•  Approved the purchase of Spanish textbooks for the coming year.

•  Approved a class-size resolution that would allow the schools to increase class sizes beyond typical state requirements.

•  Approved an Airforce Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps fundraiser.

•  Approved grocery, paper and produce bids for the school nutrition program.

•  Approved the purchase of an air conditioning unit for Brantley County High School.

•  Voted to go out for bids on bus engine repair or replacement for several school buses.

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