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School taxes rise 20 percent
BOE keeps same millage rate, but valuations cause increase
BOE-Holloway for Web
Superintendent Dr. Lewis Holloway - photo by Herald File
    Bulloch County Board of Education members voted unanimously Thursday to keep the same millage rate in the 2007-08 budget as last year, but county property owners will see a 20-percent increase in their school tax bill due to rising property valuations.
    The vote came after public input was sought in three advertised public hearings. One person attended the July 19 hearing, one person attended the noon hearing on July 26 and two people attended the 6 p.m. hearing on the same day prior to the Board meeting.
     “Most of this is for us to be able to pay for the 3-percent raise that the state mandated," Superintendent Dr. Lewis Holloway said. “We have teachers that are generated by the state and paid by the state, but then we also have teachers that we pay for out of our local option. So, most of the money is going to pay for those 3 percent raises on the staff that is not covered by the state base. Also, some other things are an increase in state health premiums, some additional teachers for increased enrollment, some math coaches and various other items that add to the total budget.”
    The budget is based upon keeping the millage rate the same as the last three years, which is 9.45 mils. Due to recent property revaluations, the net taxes increase comes to 20.01 percent. Included in that figure, 7.24 percent comes from actual new growth in the county. The remaining 12.77 percent comes from the revaluation. The additional income from the tax revaluation will help cover the $5.5 million increase in expenditures for the coming year. Included in the increase in expenditures is an anticipated cut in federal funding estimated to be $400,000.
    Charles Wilson, assistant superintendent for Business and Finance, added that the Board has a tradition of increasing other staff salaries when the teachers receive an increase and that is included in this budget, as well.
    Also included in the budget are three contingency teachers. These positions are included in the budget so that additional teachers can be hired should there be a need. During discussion of the budget, Vice Chair Dr. Charles Bonds asked that the Board add another teacher to the budget for William James Middle School due to the increase in the number of students and the larger population of minority students there.
    “We need to educate these students and bring up the test scores,” Bonds said. “We need to make time for educating these students.”
    Each school submitted a projected enrollment report on Friday. Human resources will assess the needs and try to meet them first by reallocating resources or moving personnel. If more teachers need to be hired, the contingency positions, which are already budgeted, would be filled. If after taking these measures more personnel are still required, the budget may be amended for additional personnel.
    Board member Edwin Hill said, “I agree with Dr. Bonds. There’s a need at William James, and I think we can move on it, but we need the data first.”
    In other business, the Board approved a scrivener policy that will allow the Superintendent to correct typographical errors and grammatical errors without Board approval.
    In a public hearing immediately prior to the board meeting, Pearl Brown addressed the issue of textbooks that are included in the increase.
    “Do students have books assigned to them or do they keep them in the classroom?” Brown asked.
    She said that she had heard many parents say that their children do not have books to bring home to study.
    Dr. Fran Stephens, assistant superintendent of Teaching and Learning, said that students have textbooks now. In the past textbook shortages occurred due to budgeting issues, resulting in the purchase of a set of books for a classroom. When that happened, students were allowed to check the books out to take them home, but those shortages were rectified, Stephensi said.
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