Tentative Peach County budget cuts $700,000

FORT VALLEY — Things are up in the air for the Peach County Board of Education as it considers a budget of nearly $61.5 million for the coming fiscal year.

The board approved a tentative budget at Tuesday’s meeting, lower by about $700,000 from this year’s, and with 34 fewer personnel and a higher proposed millage rate.

Susan Perry, school system finance director, said the budget was fashioned with unknowns factored in: the system’s allotment from the state, which was cut about 10 percent last year, and the county’s tax digest.

“We’ve been told by the state Department of Education our allotment figures should come by Friday, but we’ve heard that before,” Perry said. Compounding that is the county’s fiscal year ending Sept. 30, while the school system’s ends June 30, she added.

Local taxes should account for about $10.2 million in revenue, which would reflect a property tax rate of 17 mills and a projected 5 percent increase in the tax digest, she said.

The 17-mill rate is about 10 percent higher than the current rate of 15.462 mills. A mill is $1 tax per $1,000 of property value.

The budget reflects a $1.7 million austerity cut from the state, plus more than $2.7 million in the system’s local 5-mill share to the state, she said.

The projected fund balance is $3.5 million, and $2 million would be moved for capital outlay projects, she said.

Superintendent Susan Clark said the amount is the same as last year’s and would again go toward the new elementary schools being built on U.S. 341 north of Fort Valley and Kay Road south of Byron.

Clark said the system would have 21 fewer classified personnel and 13 fewer certified personnel in the next fiscal year.

“We didn’t fill in a number of vacancies, and we froze hiring,” Clark said.

She told board members not to feel “locked in” with budget figures as the situation could change, depending on state figures and more specific numbers in the tax digest. The board could take up the budget at its June 2 meeting.

In addition, the board “needs to, but doesn’t have to” hold three public hearings on the budget and the millage hike before voting on it, she said.

The board has until June 30 to approve the new budget or adopt a spending resolution, Perry said.

To contact writer Jake Jacobs, call 923-6199, extension 305.