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2015 school budget discussed
Days likely restored to calendar
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With the school year drawing to a close, the Dawson County Board of Education has begun preparations for next year.

The board voted 5-0 on Monday night to tentatively set the general fund budget at $33.9 million for fiscal year 2015.

The final discussion and approval of the 2015 budget, which is a slight increase from the $32 million budget of 2014, will go before the board during their regular meeting next month.

Officials do not foresee having to raise taxes for 2015. Last year, the board voted to increase the millage rate by 1.7 mills to 17.246 mills.

The system's local funding is determined by a millage rate, part of a formula used to calculate property taxes, where one mill equals $1 for every $1,000 in assessed property value.

Original projections showed that, had the board not raised the millage rate, the system would have been in the black through fiscal year 2014, before ending 2015 with a $4 million deficit.

The 2014 budget was approved with the expectation that the tax digest would continue to fall, by as much as 9.4 percent.

However, Dawson County Superintendent Keith Porter said Monday that didn't happen and the leveling off of the digest reflects current housing and taxing trends.

"This year, [the state is] taking $529,000 less in austerity due to the reduction in our tax digest," Porter said. "This is finally reflecting that 5 mills of our taxes aren't worth as much as they used to be. The reduction finally hit for about $921,000."

As a result, Porter said, the system has "$1.4 million available that we hadn't projected."

With these numbers in mind, the board will be able to return items shed over the past five years, and include a 1 percent increase to the local supplement Dawson County teachers receive.

"Before the economic downturn, our employees received a local supplement of 8 percent. When the downturn occurred, we had to drop to 5 percent," Porter said.

"What we are trying to do is get our employees back to that 8 percent. As part of that effort, we have added 1 percent back."

Also included in the proposed 2015 budget is the elimination of furlough days from over the past five years and adding benefit payments for health insurance and additional staff for schools.

The move will restore the school calendar to 180 days for students and 190 for teachers.

"I'm very grateful that we are able to add back some of the benefits that our teachers have lost through the years, with the return of the furlough days and starting to increase their local supplement," Porter said.

"This budget also allows us to also increase instructional budgets that impact each individual classroom, so we've been able to add back some of the positions that we were having to split, which is allowing us to get closer to fully staffed. That's something that we know is important to our schools."