Tuesday October 13th, 2015 7:12PM

Hall Co. school board recommends millage rate of 18.49

By B.J. Williams News Director
GAINESVILLE - While the news is better than anticipated in June, the belt will still be tight for the Hall County School System this coming year.

School board members voted unanimously Monday night to set the millage rate at 18.49 based on a tax appeals report from Hall County Chief Tax Appraiser Steve Watson.

Watson outlined for board members the number of real estate appeals his office has handled to date, noting that his office has finished with almost 96% of the appeals that have been filed. That gave board members the numbers they felt they needed to recommend a millage rate.

Note: erroneously reported a lower completion rate in an earlier version of this story.

Based on the latest numbers from the appeals process, revenue collections will be 8.91% lower than the previous year.

Board Chairman Nath Morris said he had questioned Superintendent Will Schofield, seeking assurance that the system could operate sufficiently with the 18.49 mill rate as opposed to a full roll-up of 19.31 mills, a move that was contemplated in June.

Morris made the motion to set the rate at the lower level and the rest of the board approved the recommendation. Still, said Morris, the board will need to look at more ways to cut expenses in the coming fiscal year.

"We've done a lot of it [cutting], we've done some outsourcing, we've eliminated positions where we've had the classified insurance rates go up," said Morris. "It's been tough times."

Superintendent Will Schofield said while the rate is better news for taxpayers than a full roll-up, there's still not much wiggle room in the budget.

"In terms of our budget, it looks like we'll spend somewhere between $9 and $10 million of what's left of your $18 million reserve fund," said Schofield.

He pointed out that since 2008, when the economic downturn ensued, the Hall County School System has eliminated 140 positions while increasing enrollment by 800 students. He also said that general fund spending in 2008 was $217 million and the new budget places spending at $194 million.

A final vote on the millage rate will come on August 27, and while that is later than usual, Schofield assured the board there will be no financial penalty for the delay in setting the millage rate. He said that he and Hall County Commission Chairman Tom Oliver had discussed the delay and he was assured there would be no such penalty.
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