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One Dawson County man is safe due to the quick-thinking actions of a neighbor who noticed an early-morning fire at a nearby home Thursday.
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Budget set for schools
Trends show tax digest improving
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The Dawson County Board of Education set the budget for the upcoming fiscal year at $33.9 million during a meeting Monday night.

The vote was 4-0, with member Will Wade absent, to approve the spending plan, which is a slight increase from the $32 million budget for fiscal year 2014.

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.

"We are finally getting just over $1 million per mill now," said Superintendent Damon Gibbs. "While we still aren't back to the 2008 numbers, which were at $1.4 million per mill, the digest is showing that it is at least steadying out."

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, with the increase in incoming funds and breaks from the state, the board will be able to return items shed over the past five years, and include a 1 percent increase to the local supplement teachers receive.

Also for 2015, the furlough days of the past five years have been eliminated and benefit payments for health insurance and additional staff for schools were added.

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

"While this is a very conservative budget, as we usually plan for, I believe things are getting better," said Jamie Ulrich, the school system's finance director.

With the budget set, the board will turn next month to millage rate discussions.

While the dates have not been officially advertised, the board is planning to use meetings set for 8:30 a.m. June 30 and July 7, and a third meeting at 6 p.m. July 7 for public hearings.