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Gainesville school system pays off loan, other bills
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The Gainesville school board paid off some of its major bills before celebrating the new year.

Janet Allison, chief financial officer for Gainesville schools, said at the board’s Monday work session the district paid off its $4.6 million tax anticipation note last week along with the nearly $28,000 in interest. The short-term loan was used to continue operating the school system this fall until ad valorem tax revenues came in.

The district also paid $944,000 on its 1993 general obligation bond used to finance the construction of Centennial Arts Academy, Allison said. The recent payment was the district’s second to last on the bond series, she said. Its last payment of about $970,000 is due early in 2011.

Gainesville school board member Sammy Smith said he hopes the timely payments in an era of epic state cuts will go over well with taxpayers before the spring 2011 vote on the 1 cent sales tax, or SPLOST.

"To the taxpayers, it’s a good faith statement that says, ‘We want the support of the community when we seek our SPLOST extension to 2012,’" Smith said. "That leaves us with only one long-term debt, which is Gainesville Middle School."

The board hopes local residents will approve the upcoming 1 cent sales tax vote that could allow the board to construct new elementary schools and purchase educational technology.

Allison said the district’s current SPLOST revenues are running comparable to last year. But the district has received about $21 million in ad valorem revenues since July 1, which is about $500,000 behind this time last year, she said.

"For us to reach budget, we’ve got to collect another $3 million by June 30," she said.

The board budgeted $24.1 million in property tax collections for its maintenance and operations budget for this fiscal year, which ends July 1, and has received 87.3 percent of that so far, Allison said.

She said the board also will be able to make a $4.4 million payment on two bonds used to build the new Gainesville Middle School, but finances are very tight.

"We are able to make them, but we are barely able to make them," Allison said of the payments.

Gainesville Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said the board remains poised to eliminate its roughly $780,000 deficit by July 1.

Also at the Monday work session, Delores Diaz was sworn into her new Ward 4 seat. Incumbent and chairman David Syfan was sworn into his Ward 1 seat.

Smith also transferred the position of board treasurer to member Maria Calkins.