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School board buoyed by favorable tax report
Growth rate tops estimates, drops deficit
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Forsyth County News
The deficit in the Forsyth County school system's 2008-09 budget is smaller than officials had anticipated.
While the projected shortfall appeared at first to be $13 million, more recent figures based on tax digest growth have trimmed it to $9.8 million.
That's because the budget was based on an estimated growth rate of 6 percent.
Dan Jones, the system's chief finance officer, told the Board of Education during a meeting Thursday that the tax digest actually grew by 8.6 percent.
"While it doesn't pull us out of the deficit, it does make it somewhat smaller," Jones said.
That, in turn, means any millage rate increase, will be smaller than officials first thought.
The millage rate is a mechanism used to calculate property taxes. One mill equals $1 for each $1,000 in assessed property value. The current rate, which hasn't risen in years, is about 14.4 percent.
Jones presented board members with several options to help whittle the remaining deficit, which he has credited to a sluggish economy, rising fuel costs and a 2.5 percent raise for teachers.
"If we left the millage rate where it is ... that gives us a $9.8 million deficit," he said. "If you bumped it up a half mill, it'd be $5.4 (million)," Jones said.
"And then I calculated what it would take to eliminate the deficit all together and it would take a 1.12 mill increase," he said. "So there's some different scenarios to look at."
Should the board not raise the millage rate by 1.12 percent, any remaining deficit could be eliminated by using money from reserve funds.
He advised the board to hold two public forms about increasing the millage rate during the first three weeks in July. The board will make a decision thereafter. The budget also will be advertised.
Board member Ann Crow was relieved the deficit had decreased.
"I'm very, very pleased that the tax digest is higher than what we anticipated," she said. "We're looking at a combination of having to take money out of the reserves and raising the millage rate slightly, or at a reasonable rate," Crow said.
"The fact that we've had a lower millage rate for the last three years has made it easier to go up slightly," she said.