The Forsyth County Board of Education approved the Fiscal Year 2022 millage rate, keeping it the same while slightly raising property taxes, along with a sales tax referendum and project list at its regular meeting on Tuesday, July 20.
The district held three separate public hearings this month, one directly before the board meeting and the other two on July 13, to hear residents’ thoughts on the proposed millage rate for FY 2022.
Following the last hearing, the board unanimously approved the millage rate of 17.30 mills, with Vice Chairman Wes McCall absent from Tuesday’s meeting.
The 17.30 millage rate has remained the same in the county since at least 2016, but with rising property values this next year, it will lead to a 2.2% increase in property taxes.
Although the tax is set to increase, Forsyth County Schools spokeswoman Jennifer Caracciolo said Forsyth still has the second lowest millage rate among metro Atlanta school districts.
The board also unanimously approved an Educational Special Local Option Sales Tax, or E-SPLOST, referendum resolution and project list.
The resolution asks that the community reimpose the 1% sales tax placed on anyone who makes purchases within Forsyth County regardless of where they live or work.
Voters in the county have approved five other E-SPLOST referendums in the past, the most recent being in 2016. With E-SPLOST V ending in June 2022, the new referendum for E-SPLOST VI gives voters the chance to continue with the sales tax for the next five years.
This means that, if passed, the referendum will keep the sales tax percentage the same.
Funding from E-SPLOST is used to pay for capital projects within Forsyth County Schools. This is unlike SPLOST collected by the county or city, which is used for projects such as traffic lights, roads and more.
The board approved a list of projects that will be funded through E-SPLOST VI over the next five years if approved by voters. Caracciolo originally presented this list to the board during their meeting last month.
Since its June meeting, the district has added $25 million in funding for life cycle upgrades and another $2.5 million for inflated costs of construction and equipment. The other capital projects and expenses listed have remained the same.
A new elementary school to serve as a replacement for Midway Elementary is among the list of capital projects. The school has faced overcrowding issues for several years due to a small student capacity, and because of its location near Highway 9, the school cannot be expanded.
Planned for a lot near Denmark High School, the replacement school is expected to cost $38 million for the building and furniture.
Aside from the Midway replacement, most of the other projects include upgrades, repairs and refreshers for older schools and equipment in the district. This includes furniture, technology, facilities and other supplies that need to be repaired or replaced in district schools and buildings.
The overall total cost of these projects is projected to be more than $264.7 million.
The E-SPLOST, if approved, would also be used to pay $50,000 in bond payments taken out after voters approved the school district’s latest bond in 2018, which helped to fund the new facilities and schools opening up for the school year starting in August such as East Forsyth High School and Hendricks Middle.
When voters approved of the bond in 2018, they also agreed to paying the remaining $50,000 in bond payments out of E-SPLOST VI. If it is not approved, Caracciolo said property taxes may need to be reevaluated to cover the costs of the projects, many of which are nearly completed.
The district plans to release more information and details on the approved project list and E-SPLOST VI in the coming months leading up to the election in November.
Here is the approved ballot question wording that will appear come election time:
“Shall a 1 percent sales and use tax for educational purposes of the Forsyth
County School District (the “School District”) be reimposed within Forsyth
County, upon the termination of the one percent sales and use tax for educational
purposes presently in effect, for a maximum period of time of 20 calendar
quarters, for the purposes of providing funds to pay (1) the cost of (a) acquiring,
constructing, and installing one new elementary school to replace an existing
elementary school, (b) acquiring land for future schools and other facilities,
instructional and administrative technology improvements (including, without
limitation, necessary software and student and staff laptop devises), school buses,
other vehicles, and related transportation equipment, and safety and security
equipment, (c) adding to, renovating, repairing, improving, and equipping existing
school buildings and other buildings and facilities useful or desirable in
connection therewith, and (d) acquiring any necessary property therefor, both real
and personal, all at a maximum cost of $250,000,000; and (2) the cost of retiring a
portion of the School District’s General Obligation Refunding Bonds, Series
2013, General Obligation Bonds, Series 2016, General Obligation Bonds, Series
2018, and General Obligation Bonds, Series 2020 (or any general obligation
bonds issued to refund such bonds), by paying or making provision for the
payment of any portion of the principal of and interest on such bonds coming due
on August 1, 2023 through August 1, 2026, in the maximum amount of
– Source: Forsyth County Board of Education
Cindy Salloum, associate superintendent of human resources and legal services, presented to the board a possible change to the district’s employee leaves and absences policy that would allow for any employee to take paid parental leave.
The proposed changes state that any eligible employee could take up to 15 days, or three weeks, in a paid parental leave when the employee gives birth to a child, adopts a minor child or begins fostering a minor child.
These days of paid leave would be given during a 12-month rolling period, meaning employees who take a three-week parental leave in August 2021 would be eligible for it again at the same time in August 2022.
To qualify, employees must be employed full time by the district and be eligible to participate in the Teacher Retirement System of Georgia or the Public School Employees Retirement System.
On top of that, employees have to have at least six continuous months of employment under the board, and hourly employees must have worked a minimum of 700 hours over a six-month period before requesting the paid leave.
The changes to the policy are available for public review on the district’s website, www.forsyth.k12.us.ga, and the board will vote on the final change in the next month.