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Gainesville schools hope tax collections curb debt
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As Gainesville residents mull over their plan to pay the property tax bills sitting on the dining room table, the Gainesville school system is waiting patiently to collect on its new increased tax rate.

The 12 percent property tax increase the Gainesville school board passed in September will help the school system pay off its estimated $5.6 million deficit. But while the school board awaits tax payments, it has an $8.4 million deficit. Board members hope that lasts only until collections come in before the end of this year.

At a Gainesville school board meeting Monday, Janet Allison, finance director for the Gainesville school system, said school system spending from July through September totaled more than $13 million, which accounts for roughly one-fourth of the school board’s total budget for the year.

Merrianne Dyer, interim superintendent for Gainesville schools, said the school board’s spending so far this year has been conservative.

"We’re one quarter of the way through the year, and we’re one quarter of the way through the budget," Dyer said.

"That’s a healthy sign we’re holding our costs down, because usually we’re at 30 percent at this time."

Dyer said much of the $13 million has been spent on constructing the new Gainesville Middle School, slated to open next August. She said the middle school construction, nearly complete, has been under budget so far.

Allison said the state audit of the 2008 fiscal year, which ended June 30, will begin in January. Dyer said the 2008 audit is the "last piece of the puzzle" in solving the Gainesville school system’s financial turmoil, and the thorough audit will enable the system to catch up on all financial matters.

The exact deficit will be determined once the 2009 audit takes place next summer, Dyer said.

She said until then, Allison and the board estimate the system’s deficit will settle between $5.6 million and $5.8 million.

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