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Approval of Gainesville schools budget is urgent, Dyer says
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Interim Superintendent Merrianne Dyer talks about the urgent need for the Gainesville City Board of Education to approve a 2008-09 budget this month.

Interim Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said Monday night that she believes that passing the Gainesville city school system’s 2008-09 budget in August is "of utmost importance."

"Schools are waiting to finish purchasing" for the new school year, which begins Thursday, Dyer told the City Board of Education during its monthly work session.

She said the budget is not set in stone with the board’s approval.

"We will continue to explore every opportunity to save money throughout the fiscal year," Dyer said.

The school system has operated on a spending resolution since July 1, or the start of the fiscal year, as the leaders have worked to put together a budget aimed a lowering an estimated $5.6 million deficit.

Dyer has said she plans to present a recommended budget at the board’s Aug. 18 meeting, which is set to begin at 7 p.m.

Board members talked briefly about possibly moving the meeting because of a high number of recognitions planned at the meeting. The board normally meets at school system offices at 508 Oak St.

Administrators are proposing a tax rate of 7.81 mills, including 7.42 mills for maintenance and operation and .39 mills for bond debts.

That would represent a 12.21 percent increase over the current tax rate of 6.96 mills, or 6.62 mills for maintenance and operation and .34 mills for bond debts.

One mill is equal to $1 for each $1,000 in assessed property value. Not considering exemptions, the owner of a $150,000 home would see taxes increase from $1,044 to $1,171.50.

Officials still are working on a final spending amount in the next fiscal year, with the figure varying between $52 million and $52.4 million.

Dyer said that John Dunne of the Georgia Department of Education’s finance and accountability division is set to meet Monday with school officials to discuss the district’s plans to reduce its deficit and review school system audits.

One area the board is exploring to raise revenue is its tuition rate for out-of-district students.

Chairman David Syfan, who is out of town and didn’t attend Monday night’s meeting, proposed at the board’s July 28 meeting that the board consider raising the tuition to $810 per year from $450.

He said that he believes that families outside the district with students in the system should help share in the rising costs of education in the district. The district has 271 out-of-district students, with 266 of those living in Hall County.

Dyer has recommended that any tuition increase take effect in January.

The board didn’t take any action on the tuition rate Monday night.

Dyer said the system has sent surveys to parents of non-resident students. The surveys primarily seek to get more information about the tuition students, such as what grade they are in and what factors played into parents sending their child to the city system.

On another matter, the board voted to approve a $10,500 contract — $1,500 less than earlier believed — with eBOARD Solutions for a Web page on the Gainesville school system site that provides systemwide information, including meeting agendas and board member contacts.

Dyer recommended keeping the site.

"The feeling is from the senior staff that we will (spend $10,500) and perhaps more in trying to replicate it," she said.

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