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Millage rate hike discussed
Public hearings will be scheduled
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Over the next several weeks, residents will have a chance to weigh in on a possible tax increase proposed by the Dawson County Board of Education.

School officials are considering a millage rate hike in order to help offset a projected $300,000 budget deficit for 2012.

The increase would require three public hearings before a vote at the July 14 meeting.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the dates for each public hearing had not been determined. Once set, they will be advertised in the Dawson Community News.

The school board discussed the matter at its June 13 meeting and voted 3-0 to approve a tentative 2012 budget. Board Member Roger Slaton was absent.

Superintendent Keith Porter said continued drops in state funding, as well as a reduction in the tax digest, have left the board with millions less in funding.

A tax exemption voters approved in November meant further losses to the school district, Porter added.

"It's all been devastating to our budget," Porter said.

An ending fund balance, or reserve, left from previous years has helped the board balance the proposed budget, he added.

"We'll offset much of this with the general fund budget," he said. "If it had not been for the planning of our board in the past in making sure we had an ending fund balance that was sufficient ... we would have been in dire straits right now trying to make this work."

The school board has not raised the millage rate, which stands at 13.464 mills for maintenance and operations and .4 mills for bond, in nine years.

The proposal calls for an increase of 1.9 mills. If approved, the owner of a $200,000 home would see about an $80 increase in property taxes.

A mill is equal to $1 for each $1,000 in assessed property value. Assessed value is 40 percent of actual market value.

The budget is tentatively projected at $36.1 million, which is about $1.1 million less than 2011.

Porter said a millage increase is the final option after making cuts to the system over the past several years.

Those cuts have included reductions in teacher, staff and student days, as well as decreases in employee benefits and retirement.

"[The state cuts] have become just too deep for us to be able to make our budget work without looking at an increase in millage," Porter said.

Board member Doris Cook made a motion to adopt the tentative budget with the millage increase included.

"I know that we've done everything we could over the past few years with all the cuts [locally] ... it's just time," Cook said.

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