0610COUNTYSCHOOLSAUDDeputy Superintendent Lee Lovett discusses higher expenses next year for the Hall County school system.
The school tax rate is rising for Hall County property owners.
The Hall County Board of Education voted Monday night to set the tax rate at 16.42 mills, or 4.27 percent higher than the current rate of 15.75 mills.
One mill equals $1 per $1,000 in assessed property value, with property assessed at 40 percent in the county.
For the owner of a $150,000 home, taxes will rise from $945 to $985.20, not factoring in tax exemptions.
The board set the rate as part of its adoption of the 2008-09 budget and after holding the third of three public hearings. The new budget takes effect July 1.
The only person speaking at the hearing was Steven Wang, president of the Hall County Education Association.
"I thank you for being apparently very fine financial stewards," he said.
The new tax rate is a little lower than originally expected.School officials were looking at 15.53 mills, but late last week, Superintendent Will Schofield said projections showed the district would need between $500,000 and $550,000 less in local tax money to cover spending.
The district cut all nonessential spending on the last day of April, and total spending for the fiscal year, which ends June 30, will come in approximately 2 percent under budget, or about $4 million, Schofield said.
Next year’s expenses will run about $218 million, or about 9 percent more than this year’s $200 million.
Deputy Superintendent Lee Lovett cited 11 areas in the budget where costs went up, including $800,000 more for diesel fuel and "unfortunately, that (amount) might not do the trick."
He also said the district needs to hire 83 more teachers to deal with student growth and spend more to open the new Chestnut Mountain Elementary School on Union Church Road in South Hall.
"We’re projecting it’s going to take us about 15 additional teachers to open (the new school)," Schofield said.
He also noted that while the district’s student population has grown 20 percent over five years, the number of special education students has increased 41 percent, and the number of English-language learners has increased 58 percent.
"You can say it any way you want to; those are expensive students to educate and we have our share in Hall County," Schofield said.
He added that the district plans to form a committee to look at budgeting possibilities if the economy continues to slump.
"We’re planning for the worst of times (next fiscal year) and hoping for the best of times," Schofield said.
"But indeed, if we see a flat or sinking (list of taxable properties in the county), we want to be ready by February or March to be able to make some major changes.
"We think there’s a strong possibility we can see some harder times than we have seen in decades."