School board to hold final tax hearing Aug. 25

If the Gilmer County Board of Education votes next week to keep its property tax rate at 16.62 mills, the local school system’s fiscal year 2017 deficit will be around $892,000 instead of $1.63 million. 

The difference is a result of the county’s tax digest reassessment. Since the county’s gross digest saw an increase of 5.95 percent from the previous year, leaving the millage rate at its current value will actually result in an increased tax levy and constitutes a tax increase. 

Were the board to adopt the rollback millage rate of 15.659 mills instead, it would forego the projected increased revenue of nearly $740,000. 

If the rollback rate were then continued into the next few years and combined with known increases expected in the coming years, finance director Trina Penland reported the system would see a deficit of $2.3 million in fiscal year 2018 and it would grow to nearly $3 million by 2021. 

To cover the rising costs, Penland said the system’s fund balance would decrease from its current $19.2 million to about $6.9 million in the latter date to cover the growing deficit. 

Penland noted continuing the 16.62 millage rate into the next few years would result in a $1.6 million deficit in fiscal year 2018 and a shortfall of $2.26 million in 2021. In this scenario, the fund balance would be at $10.6 million in 2021. 

The finance director also shared that she received information from the state that the local school system will have to pay an additional $344,000 back to the state next year for its portion of the local fair share, which is used to support poorer districts throughout Georgia. Each year, Gilmer must return five mills of revenue back to the state for redistribution. The increase for next year is based on the tax digest from 2015. 

The board held the first of three public hearings about the tentative millage rate, which will result in a property tax increase. 

John Williamson was the only person to address the board at the 10 a.m. meeting Thursday, Aug. 18. 

He noted that the system’s $19.2 million fund balance could be used to support the system for several years without having to increase property tax revenue. 

“What happens when the fund dries up? A huge tax increase? Belt tightening? We’re acting like a wealthy school system,” he continued before urging the board to cut costs and stop “a financial death spiral.” 

“I am fed up with the way governments continue to overspend,” Williamson said.

He also questioned whether the budget year that just ended was “padded for contingencies” so the system could be complimented for coming in underbudget. 

A second hearing was held that evening at 6:15 p.m., but no public comments were made. 

The third and final public hearing will take place Thursday, Aug. 25, at 5 p.m. in the school system’s office building at 134 Industrial Blvd. in Ellijay. 

The board plans to vote on the final millage rate that evening at 5:30 p.m.

Times Courier

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