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Gainesville schools low on cash, might extend tax note to keep paying bills

POSTED: November 22, 2008 5:00 a.m.

The Gainesville school board is considering extending its current tax anticipation note because the school system has collected only 26.3 percent of expected revenues so far this year.

As of Oct. 31, the school system had collected nearly $14,120,000 of its expected fiscal year 2009 revenues. The current fiscal year began July 1, and according to its budget, the school board anticipates a total of almost $53,731,000 in revenue this year.

Janet Allison, director of finance for Gainesville schools, said as of Oct. 31, the school system maintained an estimated deficit of about $9.4 million, which she said was to be expected until property tax revenues are fully collected. Allison said the state audit report of the previous fiscal year should be completed in April. At that time, the school system will have an exact deficit figure.

Allison said at the school board meeting Monday, she estimates the school system’s deficit will rest at about $5.8 million once taxes are collected. But until then, Allison said the board might consider extending its tax anticipation note past Jan. 1, 2009. A tax anticipation note allows the school board to take out bonds to keep the school system running until anticipated tax revenues are collected.

"I’m worried about it, quite honestly," Allison told the Gainesville school board. "We may have not quite enough to do it just until the first of January, which is not a good thing, but if it’s not there, it’s not there."

Allison said she and the school board will continue to monitor tax collections very closely.

Also at the meeting, Gainesville schools superintendent Merrianne Dyer reviewed a letter the board received from the city of Gainesville. The letter informed the school board that its pending annexation of roughly 520 acres may draw about 300 new students into the Gainesville school system.

Dyer said some students living in the potentially annexed areas who attend Hall County schools such as Riverbend Elementary, Lyman Hall Elementary and White Sulphur Elementary schools may have the option of attending Gainesville city schools.

David Syfan, chairman of the Gainesville school board, said the board is unclear on a few details of a tax sharing agreement it established with Hall County schools in June 2007. Syfan said the board is not certain on details of the agreement regarding which students would be asked to attend city schools.

"We are studying that because we have different understandings," he said.

Dyer said the school system remains "watchful" as the city annexation meetings unfold.

The board also approved the appointment of Will Campbell as the new principal of Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School. Kim Davis was appointed assistant principal of the Fair Street school. Campbell and Davis have been serving as interim principal and assistant principal since Dyer left her position as principal of Fair Street this summer to serve as superintendent of Gainesville schools.



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