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Gainesville City Schools’ early budget includes pay raises, lower tax rate
Gainesville school bus

Gainesville City Schools adopted its tentative budget and tax rate for the 2022-23 fiscal year at Monday’s school board meeting. 

All employees will be getting raises and the tax rate will be lowered. 

The tax rate was set at 6.195 mills, the lowest tax rate on record, according to Superintendent Jeremy Williams. That is down from 6.395 the previous year, though it is not a full rollback. 

Chief Financial Officer Kathy Pethel said they didn’t do a full rollback given the added costs of teacher raises and benefits. 

The tax rate is measured in mills. A mill is equal to $1 per $1,000 in taxable property value, and a home in Gainesville is taxed at 100% of its value. For example, a home valued at $417,000 — the average sale price of a Hall County home last year — would produce a $2,538 tax bill. 

Given the drastic rise in property values, Willaims said, the lower tax rate may not result in savings for homeowners. In 2021, the average price of a home in Hall County increased by more than one-fifth compared to the year prior. 

All employees will see a 3% rise in pay, though bus drivers and nutrition staff will get more. 

“Last year, we changed so many of the classified scales that we held off on school nutrition and bus drivers in anticipation for change this year,” Williams said. “So they're getting, of course, more than the 3%.” 

Teachers will also get a $2,000 pay raise as part of Gov. Brian Kemp’s budget. That $2,000 will be in addition to the 3% raise. 

Additionally, all salary scales will get another step increase.

“Step increases are when we have an employee that goes from year five to year six, or finishes a specialist degree, so they go from a master’s to a specialist,” Williams said. 

The school system is projecting an ending balance of just under $21.36 million. Officials expect to spend more than $1.5 million than they take in, but Williams said they will still have about three months worth of expenses in reserve. The school system spends about $7 million a month. 

“We will be fine,” he said. 

He said about 85% of the school’s expenses go toward salaries and benefits. The school system will add about 10 positions to accommodate growth in the district. They cut 14 positions last year, Williams said, because of a decline in enrollment. The 10 added positions will be mostly in special education, he added, which will help reduce class sizes. 

The school system still has 22 vacancies, with five or six employees who have accepted jobs and will begin once they are released from their current contracts.