The Bibb County school board has tentatively approved keeping the millage rate at the same 17.945 mills it has been since 2009.
Despite board member Tom Hudson’s arguments to raise the millage rate during a called meeting Tuesday night, the board voted 5-1 in favor of holding the line. Board members Jason Downey and Wanda West were absent.
The board must advertise the millage rate and wait two weeks before formally adopting it.
Ron Collier, the school district’s chief financial officer, presented the numbers to the board, noting that even while keeping the millage rate the same, the school system would be receiving less money from property and ad valorem taxes.
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Part of the reason is that property values in Bibb County have declined, he said. In addition, changes to Georgia law have switched what was commonly known as the “birthday tax” -- the annual ad valorem car tax due by a resident’s birthday -- to the title ad valorem tax, a one-time tax now in effect for newly purchased vehicles.
Collier said the system still collects money from both taxes, but it’s too early to tell the impact of the title ad valorem tax.
Despite the lower revenue, Collier said it’s not the time to raise taxes. He and board member Lester Miller noted that the district has done a variety of things to cut costs, including changing to propane-fueled buses to save money and selling surplus property.
Hudson argued that with diminishing revenues, it would require the district to dip into reserves, and that in the long run, the millage rate would have to go up anyway.
However, Collier and interim Superintendent Steve Smith said the state gave every district an extra $5 million, which Hudson dismissed as an attempt by Gov. Nathan Deal to sway voters in November’s election. Hudson said that money would be gone next year if Deal is re-elected.
Smith said that’s not necessarily the case, pointing out that Deal has pledged more funding to schools next year. Either way, the district’s budget for the current fiscal year wouldn’t be affected, so the board would have time to make adjustments and raise the millage rate if necessary.
Tuesday night, the board also approved the purchase of a warehouse on Cavalier Drive for about $3.2 million in a 4-1 vote, shortly after Ella Carter left the meeting. Hudson cast the only dissenting vote.
Smith noted that the current warehouse on Roff Avenue is dilapidated and has been subject to break-ins, costing the district about $100,000 in equipment thefts over the past three years. The new location is about 75,000 square feet and will house the maintenance, custodial and purchasing departments under one roof.
Also Tuesday, Smith presented a new organizational chart to the board designed to equalize salaries more evenly among deputy superintendents. He said he plans to recommend to the next superintendent a plan to give deputies more money based on years of experience and educational degrees, a policy Smith said was eliminated by former Superintendent Romain Dallemand.
Hudson said the process to create the new organizational chart “wasn’t transparent,” but Smith said it falls under the purview of the administration.
In other business, board member Lynn Farmer informed the rest of the board that there are 43 applications for the superintendent’s job. Of those who applied, 21 are from Georgia and the rest are from 15 other states. Twenty-eight of the candidates have doctorates in education, while nine have doctorates in philosophy. Ten of the candidates currently serve as superintendents, while three are former superintendents. One is a retired superintendent.
Farmer said the Georgia School Superintendents Association would be looking through the candidates’ applications over the next couple of weeks and doing background checks. The board will meet with officials from the association during the last week of August, but a date hasn’t been set.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.