The Dawson County Board of Education on Monday approved a $32 million budget for fiscal year 2014.
Down about $3 million from a year earlier, Superintendent Keith Porter said the drop in the spending plan can be traced back to a continued decline in the county's tax digest.
Monday night Porter said projecting a 9.4 percent decrease in the county's tax digest, when the latest estimates indicate an estimated 7.33 percent decline, will give the school system a cushion.
"This is going to be the key to this entire budget, because if it was 1 percentage point better than we have predicted, if it's 8.4 percent, that would mean $585,000 additional funds," he said.
The approved spending plan includes a potential net millage increase, though the board is not set to vote on its portion of the millage rate until July.
The school system's local funding is determined by a millage, or property tax, rate. A mill is equal to $1 for each $1,000 in assessed property value. Assessed value is 40 percent of actual market value.
"We've really been discussing this budget for the last three or so months, and we are continuing to get numbers in," Porter said. "The board has the authority to amend or revise this budget if they see there is a need."
Porter said the school board continues to monitor the full impact of health insurance and teacher retirement costs on the 2014 budget.
The district is one of only a few in the state that continues to pay an additional $86.10 per month, per certified employee, or a total of $3.1 million a year in optional employee health insurance.
Board member Will Wade was the lone dissenting vote on the motion to approve the budget, saying he was taking a stand against the state for its lack of educational funding.
"Until we collectively say we don't want to raise our local millage ... because it is the state's constitutional charge to fund education ... they're going to push us to continue to maximize our tax base as much as we're willing to," he said. "If we continue to say it's on us to continue to tax our people locally, that we're going to roll up mill so we can make our budget, it continues to give the state no reason to consider the other alternatives that the state can do if they aren't forced to."
The board on Monday also voted to retire a 2008 bond debt that will eliminate .04 mills from the school system's current overall 15.946 millage rate.
Dawson County currently has one of the lowest school millage rates in the region at 15.946, which equates to about $638 in annual property taxes on a $100,000 home.