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School leaders plan to lower millage rate
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With two of its three required hearings held, the Dawson County Board of Education has announced that it will be lowering its millage rate.

"We will be adjusting the millage rate from 17.246 to 16.496," said Dawson County School Superintendent Damon Gibbs.

Taxes on a home valued at $225,000 would be reduced by an estimated $67.

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.

The board voted to increase the millage rate to 17.246 mills in 2013.

"To get a true picture of the revenue that comes to the school system, we have to talk about both of the revenue sources, one of those being the state," Gibbs said. "Last year, the state took $1.475 million from us in austerity. For this fiscal year, the state is indicating that it will take a little under $900,000."

The state's austerity program is based off of its Quality Basic Education Funding, or QBE, program.

"The state tells us we have earned a certain amount of money to pay for student education," Gibbs said. "But the state then tells us that it can't pay that much money to send us, so it takes out the money that it can't afford to send us in austerity."

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.

"If you look at the totals, it's a staggering amount of money - almost $17 million since FY '03 in austerity and almost $75 million kept in local fair share," Gibbs said.

The current value of a mil for Dawson County is $1.1 million.

"Our preliminary tax digest numbers is saying that, for 2015, there will be $1.4 billion collected. The school district has $250 million in exemptions, which leaves us with $1.1 billion as the net digest," said the system's Finance Director Jamie Ulrich.

After the tax commissioner's collection fees and unpaid taxes, the net revenue would be an estimated $17.8 million.

Other revenue sources for Dawson County schools include a voter-approved $36.5 million education special purpose local option sales tax (ESPLOST).

The board set its 2016 budget earlier in the month at $36.4 million, ending at $5.4 million at the end of the 2016 fiscal year.

The final hearing and vote will be held at 8 a.m. July 27 at the board of education's central office.