Forsyth County’s superintendent and school board members announced at the work session on Tuesday, Aug. 9, that they plan to meet with the state legislative delegation this year to talk about how to ease pressures on local taxpayers.
Rising property taxes have been a major concern for Forsyth County residents over the past few months as market values across the nation skyrocket and prices in grocery stores and at gas pump rise.
Several community members came to Board of Education hearings in June to voice concerns over price hikes and ask board members to consider lowering the proposed millage rate of 17.3 and Forsyth County Schools budget of $578,498,654 to help lower property taxes.
In July the district passed the millage rate and budget without any changes.
“We all recognize that the budget and millage [rate] that we passed this summer had a significant financial impact on our community and on our citizens, but to be clear, I do believe the budget that was passed was best for our school system,” Superintendent Dr. Jeff Bearden said at Tuesday’s work session.
Through the budget, the district was able to provide raises for employees and remain competitive with neighboring school systems that received millions more in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding, over the last two years.
Bearden said the district had to use revenue generated from property assessment increases to provide those raises and added benefits. Now, he said they will be able to retain and recruit staff to continue providing the quality education the community expects from Forsyth County Schools.
“I thank the community for understanding that, and I thank the board for supporting our budget,” Bearden said.
But Bearden and the board agreed that they can work to help find other ways to help ease the burden of property taxes on residents. To do this, they plan to set up a meeting with the state legislative delegation.
“The purpose of that meeting is just to have a brainstorming session with the members of our delegation to see how we can work together to make sure that we’re trying to come up with ideas that will benefit our taxpayers while protecting the quality of our schools,” Bearden said. “Not sure what those ideas will be, but I think it’s really important to reach out to our delegation and start those conversations as soon as possible.”
They hope to meet with the delegation soon after Labor Day to start having these conversations before the start of the next legislative session in January.
Before closing out the work session, Chief Communications Officer Jennifer Caracciolo spoke to the board about the district’s new #ARK180 Project.
Caracciolo explained that ARK stands for Acts of Routine Kindness, and 180 represents the number of days during the school year.
“The school year is actually 178 [days], so we do a day before and a day after school to get that 180,” Caracciolo said.
During those 180 days, district leaders want to encourage students and staff to practice kindness each day with purpose. Starting this school year, every classroom contains a small, plastic boat as a reminder of that goal.
“[It] represents to them that we’re all in the same boat, sailing together,” Caracciolo said.
Bearden said the new project aligns with the district’s strategic plan, which focuses on building connections between students, staff and families.
“We know that one way to help students and staff feel connected in our schools is for people to be good to one another,” Bearden said. “And so to be practicing, not random acts, but routine acts of kindness I think will be very important to establishing that culture and climate we want in every single school.”