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Hall County school board approves budget

Numbers show millage increase

POSTED: June 24, 2013 7:33 p.m.

The Hall County Board of Education approved its fiscal year 2014 budget Monday evening, following the third public hearing on the matter.

Approval was given for a $207.9 million general fund budget, with the total budget coming in at $285.5 million. The vote was unanimous, with board member Bill Thompson absent.

No one spoke either for or against the budget at any of the hearings, though a citizen did ask a few questions Monday evening.

The budget is based on the now-approved millage rate of 19.25, up from last year’s 18.49.

One mill is equal to $1 for each $1,000 in property value, which is assessed at 40 percent. The increase in millage rate is due to the decrease of the tax digest, board members and school leaders said.

The net digest has decreased from $4.9 billion in 2008 to just under $4 billion in 2013.

Deputy Superintendent Lee Lovett said that the tax digest has gone down for two reasons, the reassessment of property and the increase in exemptions. Board member Craig Herrington commented Monday evening on what people can expect in their tax bills.

“It’s like anything,” he said. “There will be a large percent(age) that will see an increase in taxes. There’s still going to be a larger percentage of people out there that will see their tax bill lower than it was five years ago.”

Around $77.6 million of the general fund is supplied from local funds, with just under $116 million coming from state sources. The bulk of the general fund expenditures goes to instruction, which is set at $136.9 million.

That line item goes toward teacher salaries and most other personnel expenses. It’s about a 1.8 percent increase from FY13’s budgeted $134.5 million.

Adding to budgetary stress is the fact that tax exemptions are up, from just under $759 million in 2008 to $980.6 million in 2013.

The school system has also seen an increase in employer health insurance premiums and teachers’ retirement contributions of $3.2 million.

Paul Godfrey inquired about the potential of privatizing certain services at the third public hearing.

Superintendent Will Schofield pointed out that the system has successfully transitioned to privatizing some services, like janitorial and maintenance, while other services remain more efficient when done by the school.

“Right now, the outlier that puts everything back on the table is the Affordable Health Care Act,” he said. “When we’re getting to the point when we’re having to pay $11-$12,000 per employee for health insurance, we’re going to have to look at (privatization) again.”

Godfrey, a former school board candidate, had also inquired if administrative positions at the school level were cut. Schofield replied that none had been.

Currently, every school has one principal. Elementary schools have one assistant principal, middle schools have two, and high schools have three.

“Everybody thinks there’s too many administrators at the schools,” Schofield said, “but those folks are running about as fast as they can run.”

Herrington and Schofield commented on the need for state and national leaders to find other methods for funding education.

“This is what we have right now,” Herrington said. “I think we’ve done the best we can under the economic circumstances.”

Schofield discussed the issue at the Monday morning hearing.

“I think the big picture to keep in mind from a state level and a national level is, how are we going to pay for education? Because that trend is unsustainable,” he said.


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