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Hall school board gives first approval to budget, laments tax digest
Raises part of $227M spending package
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Hall County Schools’ budget for 2016-17 got a thumb’s up Monday night and Hall County’s tax digest — or a list of the county’s taxable properties — got a body slam.

The Hall Board of Education gave its first OK to a $227 million budget, which includes raises for employees and otherwise meets operating needs of a system that’s estimated to grow 200-300 students next year.

But school officials expressed concerns about the digest, which still hasn’t made up ground lost in the aftermath of the 2007-09 Great Recession.

“There’s a lot of talk out there about the (economic) rebound, but we certainly have not seen it in our digest,” Superintendent Will Schofield said.

The school system’s digest, which accounts for both new growth and the reassessment of property values on homes and businesses, grew by 1.54 percent.

“Bottom line is a lot of our neighbors are seeing growth four, five, six times more than this,” Chairman Nath Morris said.

And board members expressed worry the tax digest could shrink even more, depending on the fate of reassessment appeals.

“My fear is we’ll see a lot of appeals in industrial (reassessments) this year, so the 1.54 percent might be a rosy estimate,” Schofield said.

The budget does not propose a tax increase in the millage rate, with school officials dipping into reserves to pay for salary increases.

“The biggest piece of this budget is increased compensation for all employees,” Schofield said after the meeting.

The increase could be as high as 7.5 percent, depending on whether a teacher qualifies for a “step” increase — or additional pay based on experience and education level.

Also, the budget will help pay for 10-12 additional classroom teachers, Schofield said.

“Those are steps in the right direction, as (the system) continues to grow,” he said.

Final adoption of the budget and setting of the tax rate is set for the board’s June 27 meeting.

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