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School board sets millage
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Citing a returning tax digest and economic upturn, the Dawson County Board of Education voted 4-0 during its July 7 meeting to maintain last year's millage rate of 17.246 mills.

"There is no change in the millage rate for this year. We are remaining constant," said Finance Director Jamie Ulrich. "Because of the requirements of the law and the fact that the digest did go up, we are required to ... hold these meetings."

Last year, the board voted to increase the millage rate by 1.7 mills to 17.246 mills.

The system's 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.

"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."

According to board members, one of the issues with the millage rate is the state's Quality Basic Education Funding, or QBE, program.

The program automatically takes 5 mills from the board's tax revenue and redistributes the funds to other school systems in the state that are not as "property wealthy," such as Gwinnett County, despite the county's economic income.

The formula has not been updated since it was introduced in 1985.

While things are getting better in comparison to the last five years, the board decided not to decrease the collection due to the missing 5 mills and the need to maintain a workable ending fund balance.

"We carry over a 16 percent ending fund balance from one year to another," Gibbs said. "We have to add that money to our budget each year as a cushion for any unexpected expenditures or a bad year."

According to Ulrich, numbers from the tax assessor's office show that homes valued around $175,000 will pay an extra $100 in taxes, while homes valued at $200,000, the county's average home value, will pay an extra $115 in taxes.

The board set the budget for the upcoming fiscal year at $33.9 million during its June 9 meeting.

"Initially, we budgeted for the digest to increase only 1 percent," said board member Elaine Wilson. "Instead, it went up by 9 percent, so we had to use what was budgeted or risk our end fund balance being off for the next fiscal year."

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.

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

In other millage news, the Dawson County Board of Commissioners will hold its final hearing for county millage rates at 6 p.m. July 17.

Currently, the commissioners have tentatively adopted a millage rate which will require an increase in property taxes by 8.68 percent. The hearing will be in the commissioners meeting room at the Dawson County Government Center, 25 Justice Way, Dawsonville.

The City of Dawsonville has once again rolled back its millage rate to zero. Without the rollback, city property tax would have been levied at 0.61 percent of value.