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Dawson County schools are considering raising taxes
System is facing a $300,000 budget deficit
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DAWSONVILLE — A tax increase is among the options Dawson County school system officials are considering as they confront a projected $300,000 deficit in the 2012 budget.

"We've been talking about the year that we fall off the cliff," Superintendent Keith Porter said at a recent meeting. "Well, it's here."

The school board met last week to discuss its options for the budget, which finance director Jamie Ulrich said could include $4.3 million less in funding.

Cuts at the state level, combined with a projected 12 percent reduction in the tax digest, mean an ending fund balance that's in the red, according to Ulrich.

The tax exemption voters approved in November could mean further losses for the school system, Ulrich said.

"We had a vote that anyone over 70 would be completely exempt from school tax, so I projected a 3 percent reduction for that exemption ... I think that's a conservative estimate," she said. "That number could go up."

Ulrich has estimated 2012 revenues will total about $33.1 million, or about $800,000 less than the 2011 budget.

Projected 2012 budget revenues include $12.4 million in funding from the state, $15.9 million in local money and a fund balance of $4.8 million.

The school board can use the fund balance to offset losses during 2012, but "next year we won't have an ending fund balance to fall back on," Porter said.

The board already has reduced employee pay. The financial projections assume six calendar day reductions for all system employees. Certain reductions in positions also will apply.

Ulrich said the system could shed a position at Robinson Elementary, a part-time position at Riverview Middle School and a post at Dawson County Middle School.

"In essence, what we're trying to do is if anyone leaves the system, we're not going to replace them," Porter said.

Further measures to offset the projected deficit could include lowering student days and reducing the local supplement to health insurance coverage for employees.

The board could raise the millage rate.

"We've cut and cut and cut, and now we're in a position where we want to still be able to provide the education we want to Dawson County," Porter said.
"(A millage increase) is something we definitely need to have on the table as we discuss this in coming weeks."

The board has not raised the millage rate, which stands at 13.646 mills for maintenance and operations and 0.4 mills for bond, for several years.

A mill is equal to $1 for each $1,000 in assessed property value. Assessed value in Dawson County is 40 percent of actual market value.

The board will revisit the budget and could vote on it during its next meeting, which is set for 6:30 p.m. Monday.