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School board may raise taxes
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The Dawson County School Board is considering raising its millage rate.

After six straight years of declining property tax revenues, the school board has proposed raising the rate by 1.7 mills to a total of 17.246.

Property taxes are calculated using a formula where one mill equals $1 for every $1,000 in assessed property value.

The third of three public hearings is schedule for Friday, July 12 at 8:30 a.m. at the board's office at 517 Allen Street, Dawsonville.

In June, the board approved a $32 million budget for the upcoming school year.

According to Keith Porter, superintendent of Dawson County Schools, it is projected that the school system will lose nearly $2 million in this year's tax digest.

"The most difficult situation for this year's budget is the gap that we have of $2,524,046 created because of new required expenses and another significant decrease in revenue," Porter said. "We have no choice in the fact that the state is charging us an additional $357,480 for insurance and $156,422 for teacher retirement above last year's cost."

It is projected the school system will lose $1,898,391 in this year's tax digest, which is in addition to the decline of the past years, Porter said.

"We are being charged an additional $111,391 by the county for tax collections this year."

Porter also said he is hopeful that the fiscal year 2014 budget will be the funding "basement" for the school system.

"We are hopeful that fiscal year 2014 will be the last decline, and property values will stabilize," he said.

During fiscal year 2013, the board reduced staff by 41 employees from the previous year, and at the same time, saw student enrollment increase.

"Over the past five years, our employees have lost over $10,000,000 in salary and benefits and we have tried to make our budgets work through calendar reductions and reductions to benefits."

Even with continued cuts, the school board is projecting a $4 million budget deficit in FY15 if the millage rate isn't increased.

"We have truly reached a critical time that we must struggle through and still maintain a quality education for our children," he said.

After Friday's public hearing, the school board will vote on the proposed millage increase during its regularly schedule meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 6 at 6:30 p.m.

To view the county's fiscal year 2014 budget, www.dawsoncountyschools.org. On the left side, click E-Board, meetings, board meeting, June 10, and scroll down to item 9b.

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