GAINESVILLE – Hall County School Board members got their first look at a tentative FY 2018 budget at their work session Monday evening and heard School Superintendent Will Schofield express his opinion that something needed to be done about the growing amount of property owners exempt from paying school tax.
“One of the challenges of our budget, and it continues to be a challenge year after year, is we have now reached the place in Hall County where $1.2-billion of our local digest is exempt from school tax,” Schofield said.
“That’s 20-percent or more of our digest that is exempt from school tax,” he added.
Among those exempt from the school tax portion on their annual property tax bill are property owners 70 years and older.
“We really need to have a policy debate at the state level about how we’re going to raise funds for schools if, in fact, we’re going to have school districts that have twenty and thirty and forty percent of their digest that is exempt from school taxes.”
Schofield said, “What this budget is based on is a two-and-a-half percent salary increase for everybody in the district.”
Schofield continued, “By the time you take that salary increase and add associated benefit costs…what you see is a budget next year that reflects expenditures that are $13,274,000 more than they were this year.”
“When you look at the revenue side you see that what we are generating is almost $11-million than this year,” he added. “And I know you can all take thirteen and subtract eleven and that creates a couple of extra million dollar hole.”
Schofield told board members that he had some ideas on how to close the budget gap and felt a balance could be achieved before a proposed budget is presented for their consideration in late June.
“This budget reflects exactly what you have told our employees, that when times got better you would put as much money as you possibly could into their paychecks, and it also fulfills the promise you told our taxpayers, that is when we had the opportunity and times started to turn upward we’d do all we could to lower millage rates.”
“Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is when twenty-some percent of your digest is exempt from taxes the millage rate is going to be higher than you might have expected it to be.”