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Lower taxes, higher pay raises included in proposed Hall schools budget

POSTED: May 15, 2017 11:04 p.m.

Hall County Superintendent Will Schofield

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Taxpayers could see slightly lower school tax bills next year while providing for 2.5 percent pay raises for all Hall County school employees if budget numbers discussed at Monday’s school board meeting become a reality.

Superintendent Will Schofield presented an update of work on the 2018 fiscal year budget at the  meeting at Chestatee High School.

“We’re pleased with this budget,” Schofield told the board. “This budget reflects exactly what you’ve told our employees, and that is when times got better you’d put as much money as you possibly could into their paychecks. And it also fulfills a promise you’ve told our taxpayers, and that is when we have the opportunity and the tide started to turn upward, we’d do all we could to lower millage rates.”

The $263,885,242 proposed 2018 budget is more than $13 million higher in expenditures than the current year’s general budget. Schofield said about $11.5 million of the increase in the budget was due to salary and benefit increases for employees.

Schofield included a 2.5 percent pay hike for all employees, up from 2 percent in the last budget discussion. He said the additional money for raises was the result of requests from board members. The state mandated a 2 percent pay increase for teachers, but Schofield said any pay increase should include all employees. Teachers will see an additional pay increase because they also receive step increases as they complete each year of service.

The proposal presented Monday would lower the millage rate, which determines how much people pay in property taxes for schools. Schofield presented a plan to lower the tax rate from 18.8 mills to 18.5 mills in the next fiscal year that begins July 1.

While admitting that the millage decrease was not as much as he and board members wanted, Schofield said the school district is hindered by the fact that 20 percent of the local digest, which tells districts how much money they can expect to receive in taxes, is exempt from school taxes.

The budget discussed Monday night also includes taking $6 million out of the fund balance. Schofield said district officials have been working on ways to cut that amount by moving some expenditures to funds from the special purpose local option sales tax and paying for other items with funds in the current budget before the end of this fiscal year. He said those moves could save $2 million from the funds that would be taken from the fund balance. Another $2 million could be saved by spending conservatively during the next year, Schofield said.

Schofield says he expects to present those changes to the board before it votes on approval of a tentative budget during a meeting next week at the district office.

Following approval of the tentative budget, the board will hold three public hearings June 12 at 5 p.m. and June 26 at 11:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. Final approval of the 2018 budget is scheduled for June 26 after the public hearing.

The board can make changes on the budget until the final vote on June 26, Schofield said.


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