Four members of the public showed up to speak at the Gordon County Board of Education’s second public hearing about their proposed millage rate on Monday evening. The first meeting, held early Monday morning, drew only one person.
Of the five individuals who have attended the hearings thus far, only one person has spoken in favor of increasing property taxes. Four have spoken against the increase.
Chad Moore told BOE members that he’s not necessarily opposed to the proposed rate of 19.172 mills but that he wants them to be mindful as they consider the decision.
“Before you vote, keep in mind there are a lot of us being squeezed hard right now,” said Moore, who is retired and has grandchildren in the school system.
Moore said after the meeting that he supports the school board and thinks they are doing a great job. He said if they believe the rate is required to fund the school system, then they should approve it.
He also lamented the nonexistent turnout, save for himself, saying that a lot of “keyboard warriors” will complain online but don’t take advantage of the opportunity to talk to the men and woman who set the millage rate.
At the evening meeting, members of the public questioned how tax dollars are being spent within the county.
“When we put $40,000 in a ticket booth and $300,000 in a baseball field, someone needs to be accountable for how money is spent,” said George Healy, whose children attended school at Gordon Central High School. “It’s little projects like that that use up the money. Here, there, and all that, it adds up.”
The board intends to maintain the current rate of 19.172 mills for the 2019-2020 school year. While the proposed rate is not an increased millage rate, it is an increase over the rollback rate of 18 mills.
Gordon County Director of Finance Mendy Goble said the difference in taxes paid between the rollback rate and the intended rate would “not be significant” for individual taxpayers. For a property with a homestead exemption and fair market value of $150,000, the difference in taxes paid between the proposed rate and the rollback rate is $5.66 per month or $67.98 annually.
“So, it’s a small change to each individual taxpayer, but it’s a huge impact for us,” she said. “When we look at staying at 19.172, that’s a million dollars net to us.”
The decision to favor keeping the current millage rate was based heavily on the possibility of a recession in the near future, the likelihood that mandated raises could cost the school system approximately $400,000, and the desire to balance a currently unbalanced budget. The county’s decision to continue phasing in the Freeport Tax exemption, which taxes inventory, raw materials and finished goods, is also expected to cost the system at least $300,000, Goble said.
By keeping the millage rate at 19.172 mills, the total tax levied would be $16,875,166. The school system would then pay a required 2.5% fee to the county in the amount of $421,879, leaving the board with a net tax of $16,453,287.
A third and final public hearing related to the millage rate will be conducted at the central office on Monday, Sept. 30, at noon.