Bibb County school officials are closely monitoring a drastic decrease in property tax collections, which are supposed to generate about $76 million for this year’s operating budget.
To date, the system has collected about $43.5 million in property taxes, which were billed to Bibb County property owners in September.
By comparison, school officials had collected about $53.9 million in property taxes by this time last year.
Property valuation appeals — holding up full tax payments in many cases — are largely to blame.
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“We are $10 million off in tax receipts,” Bibb County school Superintendent Sharon Patterson told the school board recently. “It is something of high interest ... something we need to be tracking.”
The difference is being met out of the system’s reserve fund, with expectations that the full tax bills will be paid by the end of the fiscal year June 30. Any other future revenue declines could trigger potential cuts, officials said.
With thousands of property valuation appeals, some tax notices were billed at only a portion of a property’s estimated value, pending the outcome of the disputes, said Ron Collier, the school system’s chief financial officer.
“Because of that, it had a negative impact on the timing of us receiving property taxes,” Collier said. “When those appeals are settled, those folks will have to pay. We are praying and projecting it will happen this budget year.”
During the recession, it’s been hard for the school system to predict its revenue sourcing and, in turn, its spending.
Since this summer, the school system has had to amend its general operating budget five times.
Initially, school system officials expected to collect about $190 million from federal, state and local sources and spend $187.2 million of that on teacher salaries, transportation and powering schools.
But after the latest budget revision this month, officials expect to collect $186.5 million in revenue while spending $188.9 million.
The system expects to end the fiscal 2010 year with about $8.8 million in its reserves, less than the $12.4 million it first planned.
The school system prefers to have about $21 million in reserve.
“We are concerned that state revenue continues to be below projection, and the state may come back and reduce funding again,” Collier said. “We are also concerned with the tax digest. We are monitoring those and may have to make additional cuts” if revenues continue to slip.