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Jefferson school board wont alter millage rate
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JEFFERSON — Despite budget cuts at the state level and a reduction in local sales-tax collections, the Jefferson City Schools Board of Education plans to keep its millage rate the same in 2010 and keep its expenditures down.

Although the board won’t vote on the proposed 2010 budget and millage rate until its September meeting, members discussed it at length during their meeting Thursday afternoon.

"The staff has done a tremendous job of going back and cutting things and making this budget what it is without a tax increase," said board Chairman Ronny Hopkins. "That was our goal, and then the governor cut 3 percent out of the budget; and I don’t think it’s done yet."

In late July, Gov. Sonny Perdue announced a 3 percent cut to the state’s education funding and asked Georgia teachers to take three furlough days to help bridge a $900 million shortfall. For Jefferson city schools in particular, the furloughs and funding cut amounts to $488,312, according to the school board’s Web site.

The school board amended its school calendar at the meeting Thursday to reflect the furlough days, which Hopkins said would be scheduled before Dec. 31.

"It would not surprise me to see another cut in January," he said.

The proposed $18.2 million budget includes $693,068 in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money that the school used to save 12 positions. Those jobs otherwise would have been cut because of state funding cuts.

About 89 percent of the school system’s budget goes toward salaries for personnel, with 80 percent of that tied up in contracts based on state salary schedules, Hopkins said.

"The only other source (of revenue) is taxes, and we are doing the best we can to keep from raising the millage rate this year, although if there was ever a year to do it, this would be it," he said.

Hopkins also said the revenue side of the budget is the system’s best guess as to what revenues will look like in 2010 because the county has not yet officially determined the county digest.

Jackson County is working through 1,200 property tax appeals. Until it can get that number down to 3 percent of the total tax digest, or about 992 parcels, the county can’t submit its digest to the state for approval. In the meantime, the county’s three school systems are left to estimate what the digest will be.

Though Jefferson’s school system and others statewide may see more state budget cuts in 2010, Hopkins remained somewhat optimistic when discussing how teachers and staff handle shrinking budgets.

"We are in a challenging time, and I hope everyone recognizes that," Hopkins said. "We again have to rely on teachers and staff to do the best they can with what they’ve got, understanding that it’s not what it should be or what it could be."

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