GAINESVILLE – Three suggested school millage rates were presented to the Gainesville City Board of Education Monday evening. Board members were asked to consider the recommendations in light of the financial data also provided and to be ready for the August 21st work session.
“Board,” Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Williams began, “what we want to do tonight is bring these three numbers to you; then over the next couple of weeks take this document and go back and look, and if you’ve got requests…communicate that to me and we’ll be sure to get some information for you so at our next meeting we can set a tentative millage rate.”
Williams explained that leaving the current rate of 6.85-mils in place would constitute a tax increase by definition, and would require three public hearings and the prerequisite advertising in the newspaper to announce each of those hearings as set forth under Georgia law.
Only by rolling back the rate to 6.453-mils would a revenue-neutral situation occur and eliminate the need for the public hearings. That option would, however, create a projected budget shortfall of $2.4-million.
That is something that makes board member Dr. Delores Diaz uncomfortable despite the fact that the school system has a reserve fund of nearly $15-million.
Diaz mentioned that monies from the reserve fund were going to be needed in the short term to cover some other expenses, amounts unknown, and she doesn’t want to see the reserve fund taken to a dangerously low balance.
Diaz listed pay increases for new hires, teacher retirements and insurance costs that are coming next year but are not included as a part of the current year’s budget.
“We have $3.8-million, I believe, that we have to withdraw from our reserves next year. Those are fixed amounts…and it will carry forward from year to year. I’m really concerned. It worries me; our reserve is really going to be diminished,” Diaz said.
Should board members decide to use a rate higher than 6.453-mils when they reconvene August 21st, dates for the required trio of public hearings will be set at that time.
OFF TO A SMOOTH, BUT CROWDED START
Principals from each of the six elementary schools, as well as the middle and high school, reported to the board that the first four days of school went smoother than expected.
Centennial Arts Academy Principal Leslie Frierson and Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy Principal Wesley Roach agreed that sharing one campus while Enota is under construction presented an abundance of logistic challenges, but that parent and staff comment regarding the way traffic and student flow has been handled was much more positive than anticipated.
Mundy Mill Academy Principal Dr. Crystal Brown said in spite of it being a brand new school, with all students being first timers to the property, everyone has been patient and that learning the new building and meeting new students has been very positive.
The only unexpected concern to arise during the week was expressed by Dr. Williams. “The biggest challenge we’re facing now is enrollment. We have some numbers at some schools that far exceeded what we expected.”
“As an administrative staff we’ll be meeting tomorrow with the principals to talk about some ideas and get some resolution to those issues that we have,” Williams added.