Fannin School Board Looks to Raise Property Taxes

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The Fannin Board of Education voted to move forward with the process to increase the millage rate from 12.9 to 13.9 Thursday night during its July meeting. If approved after three public hearings, the increase will in turn raise property taxes for county citizens. According to the current digest, taxes will increase for a home with a fair market value of $125,000 by approximately $39.89. A home with a fair market value of $100,000 will see an increase of approximately $33.24. Before the board can officially approve the rate, though, three public hearings are required. The first two are scheduled for July 24th at 11:30 A.M. and 6:00 P.M. and the final hearing on July 31st at 5:30 P.M.

During the board’s workshop Tuesday afternoon Superintendent Mark Henson said he regrets making the recommendation.

“This is extremely tough for me,”

he said.

“I’m a citizen here in Fannin County. I hate making this recommendation I’m going to make to the board. At the same time, I’ve got to do what’s best for the students.”

He also said he feels the school system has done everything possibly to maintain high student achievement while being good stewards of taxpayer money. However, facing financial strains and a stubborn recession, he said he could see no other way to maintain the success of the school system.

Speaking at the workshop, Finance Director Susan Jackson highlighted the financial issues plaguing Fannin County’s budget, which is based on a 180 day calendar. She first cited the increases in health insurance, a result of the ironically named Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

“It was $150 (increase) per person per month,”

she said.

“We also had an increase in our teacher retirement system for the employer portion rate. It increased from 11.41 to 12.28.”

Additionally, she noted the district had several employees move up in pay-scale due to years of experience and certificate upgrades.

“Unfortunately, we’ve also had some RIFs (Reduction in Force plans) this year (too),”

she said. In May 2012, the district eliminated six teaching positions.

In the workshop, Superintendent Henson said that added to this are $1.7 million in state austerity cuts this year, a decrease in this year’s tax digest, and an increase in Fannin’s Local Fair Share. Local Fair Share is a state program where school districts are mandated to give a certain amount of its collected revenue to the state. The state then redistributes the money to presumably poorer districts. However, Gwinnett is one district that receives this money, a county typically not seen as impoverished. Henson said Fannin now sends 5 mils to the state for its Local Fair Share. This year, he said, Fannin sent $6,558,719 to the state for the program.

Henson explained if the board keep the millage rate at 12.9 for FY14, the board will bear a $1.4 million short fall. The district has experienced deficit spending for the last few years.

“If we make more cuts to our instructional programs or personnel, we’re at the point where we’re going to start jeopardizing our student achievement,”

he said.

The millage rate has remained 12.9 for the last four years, significantly lower than surrounding counties.

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