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Gainesville school board to vote on budget Monday night
Big tax increase on the agenda
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The Gainesville school board is set to vote tonight on a $50 million-plus 2008-09 budget that carries a potential increase in the property tax rate of nearly 21 percent.

As of Sunday night, a copy of the budget was not available. The Times has requested a copy of the line-item budget as soon as it becomes available for board members.

The budget is set for final adoption on June 30, the deadline for its submission to the state, with the new fiscal year starting July 1. By law, the district must allow two weeks between the budget’s tentative and final adoption.

Today’s meeting is set for 7 p.m. in the cafeteria at Gainesville High School at 830 Century Place.

Board members moved the location from its normal meeting spot, the district’s central offices at 508 Oak St., to the bigger location, anticipating a larger crowd.

And crowds have been large and vocal at previous meetings and hearings, as the school system faces an estimated $6.6 million deficit heading into the new budget year.

To deal with the financial crisis, Superintendent Steven Ballowe has recommended some $4.5 million in budget cuts, along with an increase in the property tax rate to 8.34 mills from 6.96 mills. One mill equals $1 for each $1,000 in property value.

School board members also have submitted to Chief Finance Officer Janet Allison their suggestions for cuts and raising extra revenue.

School officials have released revenue projections for next year showing that the tax increase would raise an additional $4.6 million.

Earlier this budget season, the system projected the total revenue at $55.6 million and expenses at $52.5 million, with the $3.1 million difference expected to go exclusively to reducing the deficit.

Allison has said she expects that it would take at least two years to get the district back into the black.