Bibb school board raises taxes

The Bibb County school board voted Tuesday to raise taxes.

About 70 residents attended the school system’s last-of-three public hearings, some holding signs that read “no.” At one point, several began chanting “cuts.”

After last year’s countywide property revaluation, the school system had the option of fully rolling back its millage rate from 19.79 mills to 16.945 mills to offset a windfall in tax collections.

A full rollback, though, would have generated $72.7 million for the school system, short of the roughly $4.1 million more needed to balance the school system’s $185 million general budget.

The board voted 6-2 for a 17.945 millage rate, a 1-mill increase above the full rollback rate, to generate about $77 million. Board members Gary Bechtel and Susan Sipe opposed the increase.

The tax increase amounts to an additional $33 for the owner of a $100,000 home.

“Unfortunately we are left addressing a situation where we can’t do what’s exceptional, but necessary,” board member Tommy Barnes said. “We have no other opportunity but to jeopardize our work force ... and that’s not something we want to do.”

Board member Lynn Farmer said she understands taxpayers’ frustrations and encouraged them to direct it to the state, which continues to cut funding for public education.

The board held three public tax hearings over the past two weeks, with at least 85 total residents attending.

Some said Tuesday they have no extra money to give. And in light of recent turmoil in the school system, it isn’t the best time for school officials to ask for more money, others said.

“If we had an excellent school system, I don’t think anyone here would mind paying,” said Beverly Olson, who owns five properties in Bibb County which are being hit with higher taxes. “I think the school system needs a new business plan.”

Taxpayer Alan Thiese asked the school board to consider reductions in payroll, central office management, bus routes or consider a four-day school week instead of voting for a tax increase.

At least two residents said they supported the increase.

“Surely taxpayers can support efforts for our children’s education in tough economic times,” said Lee Johnson, who said a child’s education is a community’s most valuable resource.

The city of Macon is also proposing a tax increase, but Bibb County commissioners say they will likely not ask for an increase, but rather find other areas in their budget to cut.

To contact writer Julie Hubbard, call 744-4331.