Local News

May 12, 2014

Dalton school board plans to hike taxes

Community meetings before final approval

— They didn’t raise them when many other school systems did, they say.

They didn’t raise them during the national recession, they say.

But now they say there’s no way to avoid it.

Members of the Dalton Board of Education plan to raise property taxes by .655 mills unless something unexpected changes with school funding. Board members voted unanimously Monday night to adopt a tentative tax rate increase of from 7.845 to 8.5 mills.

A mill represents $1 of tax for every $1,000 of assessed property. For a $100,000 home without exemptions, a 7.845 rate means a homeowner pays $784.50 to the school system. For the same value house, the tax increase will mean a homeowner owes $850 to the school system.

Before the increase can be approved the board has to seek out community feedback, according to state law. To that end, the school board will hold three community meetings set for 9 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 29, and another on Monday, June 9, just before the regular school board meeting. The exact time of the June 9 meeting was not released Monday, but the school board meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. All meetings will be at City Hall.

Board members have said a tax hike is necessary to keep the school system financially afloat and that an increase to 8.5 mills isn’t as “painful” as increases other school systems saw during the recession. Millions of dollars in cuts — the only other real option, they say — would be detrimental to the “quality education” they say is offered in Dalton schools.

A budget forecast provided by the school system Monday night assumes $65.4 million in revenue and $66.1 million in expenses for fiscal year 2015, which begins on July 1 of this year, leaving roughly a $700,000 deficit. In the fiscal year 2014 budget, officials expected $59.6 million in revenue and $64.1 million in expenses, with a $4.5 million shortfall. Board members voted to pull from their reserve fund to make up most of the difference, reducing it from $12.5 million to roughly $9 million. The fund balance would likely be used again to absorb the $700,000 shortfall, school officials said.

Board members have long said they are reluctant to pull millions of dollars from the fund balance again because it provides a safety net during tight financial months when property tax revenue gets stale and the school system still has to cover payroll.

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