Thomasville Times Enterprise

June 2, 2014

Millage hike?

City BOE approves increase

Patti Dozier
CNHI News Service

THOMASVILLE — The Thomasville City Board of Education unanimously approved a tentative millage increase of up to one mill, depending on the tax digest.

“It could potentially increase up to one mill. It might not increase any,” said John Everett, board chairman.

If the tax digest is higher, a millage increase might not be needed, Everett explained. “ ... You can’t set a millage rate until you know what the tax digest is,” he said.

The city BOE has not had a millage increase since 2007. Shortfalls were met with reserve funds.

“It’s not prudent to dip into that again,” the chairman said.

The current city BOE millage rate is 17.3. The state cap for school board millage is 20.

The fiscal 2014 budget showed revenue of $22,255,723 and expenditures of $23,611,905.

Everett said Thomasville City Schools have been able to hold the millage rate the same since fiscal 2008, despite decreasing state funding and significant non-funding under the state Quality Basic Education (QBE) formula.

The fiscal 2015 tentative budget estimates revenue of $23,159,751 and $23,249,418 in expenditures, a net reduction of $362,477 in expenses, compared to fiscal 2014.

Everett said the system estimates a reduction in full-time equivalents (FTE) revenue of $285,000 because of a drop in enrollment in 2014.

The tentative budget represents an expense cut of $783,000 from the original budget proposed for fiscal 2015.

The school board projects an austerity cut of $1,255,854 in earned revenue from the state not funded under the state QBE funding formula, Everett said.

The tentative fiscal 2015 budget also restores two teacher furlough days and includes a mandated increase in teacher retirement contributions from 12.28 percent to 13.15 percent.

According to information provided by Dr. Daniel Oldham, city BOE director of finance, education in 2008 was funded with 54 percent state revenue, 39 percent local revenue and 7 percent federal revenue.

Today, Oldham said, education is funded by 47.3 percent state revenue, 43.7 percent local revenue and 9 percent federal revenue.

“On top of the cuts, the state legislature shifted the health-care cost for classified employees from state government to school districts,” Oldham said. “This amounts to a total budget number of $2,263,477 since 2011.”

The BOE chairman said primary reasons for the potential millage rate increase include a continuing shortfall of state funding under the QBE formula, a slight drop in FTE and the need to ensure the system maintains adequate reserves.

Said Everett, “The system has been able to endure the last seven or eight years without a millage rate increase, despite significant decreases in state funding, while most other systems in Georgia were being required to make up the difference in local funding via a millage increase.”

However, he added, “We have to operate prudently, and the system cannot afford to continue to operate from reserves to bridge the gap while waiting for the economy to recover.”

Everett pointed out that the budget is tentative.

“Once the 2015 tax digest is known and the rollback rate determined, a final decision as to the potential increase in millage rate will be determined,” the chairman said.

Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached a at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1820.