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Tax increase approved
Porter: Were just out of options
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The Dawson County Board of Education approved a resolution last week that will raise local property taxes.

The increase, which the board says will offset an expected budget deficit for the next school year, was approved 3-0 by the board on Thursday. Members Elaine Wilson and Cecil Bennett were not present at the meeting.

The vote came on the heels of a third required public hearing, where members of the community were able to voice their concerns.

"I don't have any kids in school and haven't had anything to do with school in almost 50 years," said resident Clinton Chumbley before the vote. "And this tax increase you're talking about would cost me $825 a year, and I'm already having a problem with taxes."

The resolution passed by the board increases the millage rate by 1.9 mills. Of those 1.9 mills, 1.410 mills will make up for tax revenue lost to property reappraisals and .490 mills will help offset revenue lost to a new senior exemption.

A mill is equal to $1 for each $1,000 in assessed property value.

Since 2001, the school system's portion of the Dawson County millage rate has remained 13.646 mills for general operations and .4 mills for bond.

The rate will increase to 15.546 for operations and remain .4 for bond.

For each mill increase, there will be an additional cost of $40 per year in taxes on a home with an assessed value of $100,000, according to the school system.

Assessed value is 40 percent of actual market value.

After the board had approved the resolution and adjourned Thursday's meeting, resident Ben Trail spoke out.

"I'll just say this now: I'll actively campaign against all incumbents on the school board in the next election," he said.

Dawson County Superinten-dent Keith Porter said he understood many residents are facing difficult times, but insisted that the school board was left with no other option.

"We know that this is a terrible time to raise taxes of any kind, and we have tried for nine years to avoid it," he said. "We have tried everything we can to prevent this, and we're just out of options.

"We feel like we're at the point where we have to make the recommendation to [raise the millage]."

During the three public hearings, Porter gave a presentation outlining the system's budget. Porter also pointed to steps the board has taken to prevent a millage rate increase.

From cutting after-school programs and employee benefits to reducing teacher and student school days, the board has made several attempts to cut back the system's budget in an effort to make up for money lost to the state.

"We've lost or failed to receive close to $60 million in locally generated funds the past nine years to the state," Porter said. "And that's money that comes from our community that goes to other school districts."

The subject of state legislation was a popular topic at the final public hearing.

Many residents in attendance asked if state legislators were aware of the difficulties that residents of counties like Dawson were encountering.

"We've had to enlighten [state legislators] to what's going on, because they don't understand what we're facing and what our property owners are facing," school board member Doris Cook said. "We need all of you to go talk to the legislators and let them know."

Fellow board member Roger Slaton agreed.

"If they would fund what they mandate and require us to do, it would certainly help and prevent us from having to take a measure like [raising the millage]," Slaton said.

Cook also said that members of the community should keep in mind that the board doesn't control state and federal mandates, or tax evaluations that decide on the assessed value of land.

"And we can't control the economy," Cook said. "We can only make the right decision for the children in our school system, and I feel that we've done that."

The same day that the school board voted in favor of an increase, the Dawson County Board of Com-missioners voted to keep the county's portion of the millage rate at 8.138 mills.

Chairman Mike Berg said the board is requesting no change in the rate for 2012.

With both the county's and school board's portions set, the 2012 millage rate for Dawson County will be 24.334.