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Hall County may raise taxes to pay for books, buses

POSTED: June 10, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Hall County residents could be looking at a tax increase to fund school district projects. The county may raise taxes to fund a number of increased expenses, including new teachers, textbooks and school buses.

"The budget growth this year is similar to the growth of previous years’ budgets within a few percentage points," said Lee Lovett, Hall County deputy superintendent.

At $217,534,073, the 2009 budget is projected to be $17,316,785 higher than the 2008 budget.

In order to raise this money, the millage rate, which is $1 for every $1,000 of a property’s value, would increase by about 5 percent, according to a statement from the school board.

The current millage rate is 15.75, and it would increase to 16.53 in 2009.

Lovett said the rate increase is not connected with values from property reassessment last year.

Rising fuel costs, more students and the new elementary school opening on Union Church Road are among the factors contributing to the new increase.

"All these things are necessary," Board Chairman Richard Higgins said.

Doug Aiken of the Hall County Taxpayer Association said he agreed the cost increases were necessary, but felt money should be raised by reducing expenses instead of increasing taxes.

"Any time you raise taxes in a time of recession it’s bad news," Aiken said. "I think it’s uncalled for. They never appear to be very concerned about cutting expenses."

Like many other industries, the school district has to make changes because of the high price of fuel.

Because the school buses run on diesel, which is currently more expensive than gasoline, an additional $800,000 was added to the 2009 budget.

"Diesel fuel cost is something we can’t run away from," Higgins said.

The county also will have to make up for state funds it won’t be receiving next year.

"We still have that $1.5 million formula adjustment," which was previously called an austerity cut, Lovett said.

When the state withholds $1.5 million "things are tight," he said, and that money must be raised locally.

Public hearings will be held at 11:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on Monday and 6 p.m. on June 9 at the Board of Education Building at 711 Green St.



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