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School board forsees slight decrease in millage rate

By Kay S. Pedrotti Lamar County tax digest figures related to schools are up slightly for 2015, meaning the Board of Education can decrease its millage levy by a small amount, from 16.736 in 2014 to 16.716 for this year. Reassessment of real property in Lamar County resulted in slightly higher values, said tax assessor Jeannie Haddock. That creates the opportunity for the slight millage rate decrease, according to Haddock. Adjusted M&O digests are created separately for the county and BOE because some exemptions apply to one and not the other, she said. After months of consideration and discussion, the BOE has set a budget for 2015 at $20,870,947 in expenditures. The revenue estimate from all sources is $19,734,180, a difference of $1,136,767. In past years, the board has operated with the reserve fund compensating for the difference. Superintendent Dr. Jute Wilson said the priority is that expenses be held down to protect as much of the fund balance as possible. On July 1, the fund balance was $3,888,831; the present projected fund balance as of June 30, 2016, is $2,752,064. ’There are many variables that make up the complicated funding formula in Georgia. This year we worked to reduce almost $500,000 from the annual budget,’ said superintendent Dr. Wilson. ‘We are committed to exploring every option to be as efficient as possible, and we will continue to work to reduce expenditures. However, we can only adjust matters that are under our control. Unfortunately, financial matters at the state level do not always work in our favor (austerity cuts, loss of equalization money, and additional classified healthcare expenses). These three things, this year alone, will negatively impact Lamar County more than 1.2 million dollars.’ The budget, advertised in this edition of The Herald Gazette, lists revenue projections including $7,674,654 in local tax revenue; $11,999,526 from state sources; $60,000 from other sources, for the $19,734,180 total. Expenditures projected are: Instruction, $13,543,841; pupil services, $839,838; instructional services, $399,110; educational media, $523,040; general administration, $679,688; school administration $1,463,777; support services – business, maintenance and operations, $1,797,224; student transportation, $1,001,462; central support services, $227,911; other support services, $188,980; school nutrition program, $19,000; total, $20,870,947. ’Our proposed 2015-16 budget currently shows a deficit more than 1.1 million dollars, an amount that could be erased if we received our allotted state funding, maintained classified healthcare costs and received the same equalization funding we received for several years,’ said Dr. Wilson. ‘We want to maintain a healthy fund balance, and we certainly do not want to operate with a deficit budget. However, raising the millage rate is not an option we are currently exploring to cover this problem at this time. We plan to cover the amount with our fund balance, continue to find ways to reduce expenditures, and hope state revenues will continue to increase.’ The budget will be considered for final adoption in a regularly scheduled meeting at 7 p.m. Aug. 11 at the board offices, 100 Victory Lane.

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