After advertising last week that they would have to raise taxes to service a bond debt, county school leaders talked more about that decision Tuesday night.
Because the county tax digest came out late, school leaders have had to act quickly in order to get the tax passed before the new year.
“I apologize with the rapid pace with which we have had to move,” Madison County Schools superintendent Dr. Mitch McGhee said.
McGhee’s recommendation is that the school system keep its maintenance and operation millage rate at 16.99 while levying an .826 mill increase — generating roughly $570,000 — to make an annual bond payment on Danielsville Elementary School.
School leaders used 2003 SPLOST money to make last year’s payment. Those funds are now gone.
Since the school system levied no tax to service the bond last year, asking for any taxpayer money this year constitutes a 100 percent increase.
Therefore, the BOE must hold a series of Taxpayer Bill of Right hearings.
Those hearings are set for Dec. 15 at 6 p.m. and Dec. 22 at 11:30 a.m. and again at 6 p.m.
The board of education will vote on its maintenance and operation millage rate and bond millage rate on Dec. 22 at 6:30 p.m. after the final public hearing.
The school system must have this process completed before the end of the year so the county can send out tax bills very early in 2009.
“We don’t want them to be waiting on us,” McGhee said.
The Danielsville Elementary debt service bond was passed in 1992. There was no SPLOST money back then for that project. The expectation was that a tax — up to one mill — would be levied annually for 20 years to service that bond debt.
However, the school system has periodically been able to take money out of SPLOST money in later years to cover that annual payment.
“We were using the 2003 SPLOST to do that,” McGhee said. “Of course, that ran out June 30 of 2008.”
No funds from the 2008 SPLOST can be applied since that money has gone to fund the construction of the new Madison County Middle School.
As for overall money to run the county schools, the BOE won’t change its maintenance and operation millage rate, despite a projected $250,000 shortfall in local revenue due to a dip in the county’s net digest.
Madison County also expects about $500,000 less in state funds, leaving the school system with roughly $750,000 less than originally expected.
The school system will use an unforeseen surplus from the 2007-2008 to cover that loss instead of levying a tax increase.
“It will take every last penny of that (surplus), plus dipping into our reserves,” McGhee said.
BOE receives some hardware
McGhee unveiled a plaque given to the Madison County BOE from the Georgia School Board Association, recognizing the local school board earning Board of Distinction status.
“It’s a lot of hard work and it’s a great honor … I want to say thank you and I appreciate all that you’ve done,” McGhee said.