The Columbia County school board agreed at two public hearings Tuesday to keep the millage at 17.09. The board also announced at its regular meeting Tuesday that it will set the millage rate July 22.
Rolling back the millage by half a percentage point to 16.59, to offset the 44 percent increase in the tax digest that comes from reassessments, would leave the school system with a $2 million deficit, Superintendent Charles Nagle said.
He said the county tax digest is expected to increase by 7.59 percent, with growth accounting for the remaining 56 percent of the increased value of taxable property.
"At this rate, our budget will about break even," Nagle said.
The school system's $176 million budget for 2008-09 is about $9 million higher than last year's.
The budget includes state-mandated pay raises of 2 percent for administrators and 2.5 percent for other employees; 30 additional teaching positions; six additional bus drivers; start-up costs of $375,000 for Stallings Island Middle School, which is opening in August; $650,000 to cover increases in utilities and fuel costs; and $918,000 for the purchase of new math and science textbooks.
The final millage rollback hearing July 22 will begin at 5:30 p.m. at the Board of Education central office, 4781 Hereford Farm Road, Evans.
The board is required by law to hold three public hearings if it does not roll back the millage to offset the increase in taxes created by rising property values.
In other business Tuesday, the board unanimously agreed to loan $50,000 to Stallings Island for the purchase of athletic uniforms and equipment.
The school system normally requires schools or booster clubs to put down a deposit of 20 percent of the required funds to apply for a loan. Stallings Island requested a waiver because the athletic booster club does not have the needed funds.
"Middle schools don't necessarily get the boosters' support that you get at the elementary school level and the high school level," board member Mike Sleeper said Wednesday.
At the board meeting, however, Sleeper raised the concern that a waiver for Stallings Island could set a bad precedent, particularly since Grovetown High School is scheduled to open in 2009. Sleeper also asked whether the board should revise the policy that requires loan deposits.
"To waive the policy once doesn't mean it's a bad policy," said Regina Buccafusco, the school board chairwoman.
Nagle said he did not think schools should get automatic approval for waiver requests. Board members agreed to revisit the policy if they receive repeated waiver requests in the future.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.