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Cuts could reach $2 million for Gainesville school system

POSTED: April 20, 2009 11:12 p.m.

The Gainesville school system is expecting about $2 million less in state funding this budget year, school officials said Monday night.

City officials were bracing for huge cuts, given the state’s faltering economy, but had expected to also receive a mid-term supplement of $1.8 million that accounts for the system’s enrollment growth since the passage of last year’s state budget.

“But the austerity reductions — further cuts — pretty much wiped out the mid-term adjustment,” said Superintendent Merrianne Dyer.

Janet Allison, finance chief for the school system, told the City Board of Education Monday night those numbers may go up if “we get (federal) stimulus money to backfill that.”

School officials have spent the year fighting against a bad economy, including efforts to chip away at an estimated $5.8 million deficit. They have said they are hopeful they can pay off about $1.8 million of that amount this summer.
Systems statewide are experiencing similar issues.

Due to drastic cuts in state funds, the Hall County Board of Education is building a budget for the 2009-10 fiscal year, which begins July 1, that is $10 million less than this fiscal year’s budget.

Both systems have had to lay off teachers and freeze positions to save costs.

Allison said Monday night that the school system still is lacking about $850,000 in property tax revenues for the year, but that between April 1 and June 30 last year, slightly under $800,000 trickled in.

“With our (tax) rate a little higher this time, you would expect to get somewhere around $1 million probably,” she said.

In other business, board members talked about compiling questions for Gainesville City Council concerning plans for a redevelopment district.

The board voted last week to back out of an agreement with the council to help fund redevelopment projects in Gainesville’s Midtown and downtown. But members talked about putting together a list of questions about the initiative by the board’s May meeting and then discussing them at its June work session.

“And then we can send them off,” said the board’s chairman, David Syfan.

In the meantime, the system plans to send a letter about its official action to city officials.

The school board’s decision cuts nearly 65 percent of the Gainesville redevelopment district’s funding, but does, however, leave open the possibility of future school board participation in Gainesville’s tax allocation district.

Under their 2006 agreement, city and county governments and the school system still would get property tax revenue from the 270-acre district, but revenues above the Dec. 31, 2006, taxable value would fund redevelopment projects in the area.

Redevelopment usually increases property values and therefore tax revenues.

Gainesville school board officials have expressed concerns with giving up the revenue — an estimated $130,000 — when they recently approved teacher layoffs.



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