Walker County Advancing Education Center

Walker County Advancing Education Center is at 925 Osburn Road, Chickamauga. The Walker County Board of Education will host public meetings for input on the budget Tuesday, July 13, at 5 p.m. at the Advancing Education Center in Chickamauga and Monday, July 19, at 5 p.m. at the Board of Education office in LaFayette.

Budget talks are underway in Walker County Schools, and Chickamauga City Schools have already adopted next year’s budget.

The 2022 budget for Walker County includes $91.4 million in expenditures and $99.8 million in revenue and beginning fund balance.

“The preliminary numbers are all we have received at this point; appeals are happening now,” Walker Schools Superintendent Damon Raines said. The board is considering holding the current millage rate at 17.404, which would yield an additional $3 million in potential local funds, according to preliminary projections.

The millage rate is the amount per $1,000 used to calculate property taxes. The millage rate is multiplied by the total taxable value of the property in the jurisdiction, or tax digest, to calculate the amount of property tax owed.

Walker County’s digest is growing. County appraisers have adjusted the residential property base value this year from $52 to $78 per square foot in order to comply with state law appraisal ratios, according to county officials.

Walker

Last year Walker Schools reduced calendar days for employees by 10, but this year school officials do not anticipate any furlough days. This year the Teacher Retirement System percentage increased from 19.06 to 19.81, and school officials are pondering a step increase plus 2% for all classified employees in this budget, Raines explained.

The boost in finances helps offset revenue reductions in other areas.

“We will still have an austerity cut from the state of $2.3 million in this budget; CARES Act funding has helped in the recovery as each dollar spent must be connected to the impact of COVID-19,” he said. “We are still quantifying the total impact of COVID across the district.”

The Walker school board will host public meetings for input on the budget Tuesday, July 13, at 5 p.m. at the Advancing Education Center in Chickamauga and Monday, July 19, at 5 p.m. at the Board of Education office in LaFayette. The board is expected to adopt the budget Monday, July 19, during the board’s meeting at 6 p.m.

“Once we receive the final tax digest information, we are required by law to advertise the millage hearings (three), as well as post on the system website. We will comply with that process according to the requirements,” Raines said.

Chickamauga

Chickamauga Board of Education adopted the budget that covers the 2021-22 academic year during the school board’s June 14 meeting.

“I would not say we have fully bounced back financially from the effects of COVID-19, but federal funds have definitely helped. Property valuations have increased and at this time we do not plan any increase in the millage rate” Chickamauga City Schools Superintendent Melody Day said.

The school district’s 2022 budget includes $11.2 million in general fund revenue and nearly $11.8 million in expenditures; the estimated beginning fund balance is roughly $1.45 million and an end fund balance of $903,576.

Diane Miller, finance director for Chickamauga City Schools, said school administrators expect the final tax digest, which will then enable officials to estimate property tax collections. Officials expect the tax digest will be available about July 15.

“I know some areas of the county have been revalued,” Miller said, adding she is unsure what the dollar impact on that will be.

The district’s current millage rate is 14.25 mills.

“We have received an increase in student applicants for the 2021-22 school year,” Day said. “However, we will continue to manage our enrollment and keep our size close to our current numbers. This also assists us to maintain current numbers of teachers.

“We feel the sizes of our schools are where we want them and our community does not want them to grow too large, so we strive to maintain our current size,” she explained. “We have had increases in the maintenance budget this past school year due to purchasing additional equipment and supplies to combat COVID-19.”

Catherine Edgemon is assistant editor for the Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga., and the Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga.

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