Walker County school board meets over $4 million budget increase

Walker County school board meets over $4 million budget increase

June 10th, 2018 by Tyler Jett in Local Regional News

Staff photo by Tim BarberThe Walker County Board of Education will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday to vote on the tentative budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The board will hold two public hearings in July and vote on the final budget July 16.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

Correction: A previous version of this story said the Walker County Board of Education will vote on a tentative budget Tuesday. In fact, they will review the budget during a planning session Tuesday. They will then vote on the budget during a June 18 meeting.

Millage rate, explained

To evaluate the amount of property taxes you owe, a single mill is $1 in taxes you have to pay for every $1,000 of the taxable value of your land. So if the taxable value of your land is $200,000, a 16.622 millage rate means you would pay $3,324.40 in taxes.

The Walker County Board of Education will review a tentative budget Tuesday that increases revenue by $4.6 million and spending by $4.2 million.

The budget released publicly so far is only two pages long. But Superintendent Damon Raines said the system's financial department will work on a more detailed report through Monday. The proposed budget does not call for an increase in property taxes, which last year charged people a millage rate of 16.622.

The bulk of the added funding comes from the state government. In March, the legislature voted to properly fund the state's Quality Basic Education formula for the first time since 2002, when then-Gov. Sonny Perdue implemented austerity cuts.

For Walker County, the new funding will deliver about $1.7 million more for salaries (but also $225,000 less for "operating") and return $1 million that the county missed out on last year because of austerity cuts. Compared to last year, the school system also projects to receive $2.1 million more in equalization funding — a 34 percent increase. Equalization funding comes from the state to help poor counties. Generally, the funding is based on how a county's property values compare to the state average.

Raines declined to comment on the tentative budget Friday. The system's five board members did not return messages asking for their general thoughts about the proposals.

On the spending side, the budget calls for $3 million more for instruction. The current proposal does not explain how that money will be split up: how much goes to raises, how many more teachers the system will add or where those teachers will work.

In addition, the budget calls for a $720,000 boost for maintenance and operations, as well as a $400,000 boost for administration. It's not yet clear what exactly that money will go toward.

The board will review the tentative budget during a meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Advancing Education Center, located at 925 Osburn Road in Chickamauga. It will vote on the tentative budget during a June 18 meeting, hold a public hearing on the budget at 5 p.m. on July 10 at the same location and a second public hearing on July 16 at the Board of Education, located at 201 S. Duke St. in LaFayette.

The board will then vote on the final budget that same day at a 6 p.m. meeting. The system's fiscal year actually begins July 1, but the board will vote June 18 on a spending resolution that helps the system pay its bills until the new budget is finished.

The system includes 10 elementary schools, four middle schools and two high schools. As of March 1, according to the Georgia Department of Education, 8,666 students attended Walker County schools.

Leaders of both the local Democratic and Republican parties said they plan to monitor the budgeting process this year. David Boyle, chairman of the Walker County Democratic Committee, said his group wants to make sure the schools are properly staffed and that teachers are making a competitive salary. In general, he is concerned the board spends too much improving buildings and not enough hiring the right amount of teachers.

"There is a strong tilt on spending on facilities and physical things, as opposed to people and aids to children," Boyle said.

Walker County Republican Party Chairman Mike Cameron said members of his group will follow the budgeting process this year. He did not have any specific thoughts on the tentative budget or what he would like to see prioritized at the school system this year.

"We'll monitor it," he said. "We'll have some people going to their meetings."

The Catoosa County Board of Education will hold budget hearings on June 28 and Aug. 2, both at 6 p.m. at 307 Cleveland St. in Ringgold. The board will adopt its budget at an Aug. 20 meeting, also at 6 p.m. in the same location.

The Chickamauga Board of Education will unveil its tentative budget during its regularly scheduled meeting Monday at 5:15 p.m. at 402 Cove Road. The board has not announced its budget hearings.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or tjett@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.


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