At its June 23 work session, the Thomaston-Upson Board of Education unanimously approved a 2015-2016 General Fund Budget of $33,308,605. This is an increase of $400,000 over the 2014-2015 budget. Ironically, with a decrease in property values after a reassessment was done this year, that $400,000 budget increase is basically what the school system is going to have to make up.
But rather than increase the millage rate, the Board of Education, on the recommendation of School Superintendent Dr. Maggie Shook, has tentatively approved keeping the millage rate the same as last year, 15.38 mills. Dr. Shook made the recommendation as a way to show support for the community after 85 percent of voters approved the school system’s new ESPLOST in March.
At their August 11 meeting, Finance Director Kathy Matthews explained to the board that Tax Commissioner Barry Cook provided the computation on the millage rate rollback.
“There is a decrease in the values from the 2014 digest to the 2015 digest,” Matthews said. “The current 2015 digest shows the value of one mill being at $559,153, which is a decrease of $28,756 under the 2014 digest of $587,909.
“When we prepared the 2016 budget, we always use the previous year’s digest figures, so the budget was prepared on the $587,909 mill value and the mill rate at 15.38 mills.”
With the decrease in values, that leaves the school system approximately $434,000 short of meeting its 2016 budget. But Dr. Shook told the board the system will tighten its belt to make up the difference.
“Mrs. Matthews, Dr. Gatlin and I had long talks about this lower assessed rate,” Dr. Shook said. “I do recommend that we maintain our mill rate at 15.38. We just had a very successful 85 percent of the voters voting for our ESPLOST. We need to tighten our belts a little bit, and it’s my recommendation that we maintain our mill rate at 15.38.”
A motion to set the tentative millage rate at 15.38 mills was made by board member Angie McGill and seconded by board member Terrell Jackson. It was approved by a 7-0 vote.
The board also approved calling a special meeting for Thursday, September 3, at 8 a.m. to finalize setting the millage rate.
The difference between revenue collected from the state and property taxes and expenses was expected to be $33,308,605 for the new fiscal year, a difference of $1,609,350 that would be made up from the school system’s fund balance. At the end of the current fiscal year, the estimated fund balance was $5,500,000. After covering the difference between revenue and expenditures in the new budget, by the end of the next fiscal year on June 30, 2016, that balance estimate would have been reduced to $3,890,650. After the meeting last week, Matthews said the extra $434,000 would also come out of the fund balance, giving it a new balance estimate of $3,456,650.
Larry Stanford may be reached at 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @LarryStanford7.