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BoE raises millage rate
Liberty BoE 1
The Liberty County Board of Education Office is at the Corner of Memorial Drive and Bradwell Street. - photo by File photo

Editor's note: This article has been revised to reflect the following correction, which will appear in the Nov. 29 print edition. The Liberty County Board of Education recently set the fiscal 2016 millage rate at 15.88 mills — the same rate as in 2014. The millage rate for 2015 was set at 15.65, a rollback of 0.23 mill. A front-page article Sunday, Nov. 22, incorrectly reported that it was the fiscal 2015 millage rate that was set and incorrectly reported that the rate was the same as the previous year. The board actually set the 2016 rate, and it was the same as in 2014 but was actually an increase from 2015. The Coastal Courier regrets the errors.

The Liberty County Board of Education set the 2016 millage rate at 15.88 last week, an increase from the 2015 rate of 15.65 mills.

The new millage rate was approved 6-1, with board member Marcus Scott IV opposed, during Tuesday’s meeting.

“We advertised a 16-mill cap, which means that the board could go as high as 16 mill, but we didn’t have to,” School System Superintendent Dr. Valya Lee said. “Since that time, we’ve had more districts to report, and we are pleased to announce that we will set the millage rate at the same rate we had in 2014, which will be 15.88.”

The board was previously considering increasing the millage rate for the school district to maintain both the level of federal funds received and property-tax revenue. To maintain federal Impact Aid, the district’s millage rate has to be at least 95 percent of the average millage rate for Georgia school districts. The district usually sets the millage rate after all other school districts in the state have established theirs to ensure that Liberty’s rate meets or exceeds the 95 percent requirement.

Financial report

Roger Reese, the school system’s chief financial officer, presented the unaudited 2015 financial report.

The estimated fund balance is $23,911,000 and estimated capital-project fund balance is $14,347,000. Reese said that in June, the estimated general fund balance was $20 million and the estimated capital-project fund balance was $14.6 million.

He explained that the differences in the amounts were due to an $850,000 E-Rate amount not included in the earlier estimated balance. E-Rate provides schools and libraries discounts on telecommunications, Internet access and information services.

The E-Rate reimbursement was received in August after the estimated balance was given. There was also a budget savings of more than $1 million and $2 million in delinquent tax accruals due. The amount in delinquent tax accruals was also made available in August. The district might not receive the money from delinquent taxes, but Reese said the amount must be listed on the unaudited report.

Georgia Milestones

Jennifer Walts, the district’s director of evaluation, assessment and accountability, presented the scores from the first administration of the Georgia Milestones Assessment System. Walts said the scores from winter 2014 and spring 2015 “will establish our baseline data which will inform instruction as we move forward.”

There are four levels of performance:

• Level 4, distinguished learner (exceeded standard);
• Level 3: proficient learner (met standard);
• Level 2: developing learner (partially proficient); and
• Level 1: beginning learner (did not meet standard).  

Walts showed that for End of Grade testing in winter 2014 at Levels 3 and 4, Liberty County public high school students exceeded both state and district scores in all content areas except analytic geometry, and Liberty County High School scored higher than the district in all content areas.

On the spring 2015 EOG, for Levels 3 and 4, the high schools exceeded the district and state scores in biology and economics. LCHS exceeded the state and district in U.S. history. Walts said the EOG scores for grades three through eight performing at Levels 2,3 and 4 show that Liberty County scores are close to state and district scores.

Her presentation listed:

• English language arts — 797 students at Level 2 and 15 percent within 10 points of Level 3
• Math: 933 students at Level 2 and 17 percent within 10 points of Level 3
• Science: 917 students at Level 2 and 20 percent within 10 points of Level 3
• Social studies: 1,045 students at Level 2 and 19 percent within 10 points of Level 3.

Walts said many students are close to being Level 3. She then discussed different strategies to get more students to Level 3. These included more engagement with parents, making improvement plans for students, increasing Lexile scores and professional development.

Graduation rate

Walts announced that the graduation rate has increased by 8.9 percentage points since spring 2014. Bradwell Institute’s rate increased by 12.3 points and Liberty’s by 6.9 points.

In other business, the board:

• Approved an E-SPLOST (Education Special Purpose Local Options Sales Tax) resolution on the language that will be submitted on the March 1 ballot.
• Accepted a bid from Holland and Holland to provide security enhancements at Liberty County High School for more than $70,000, which will be funded by existing E-SPLOST funds. School System Chief Operations Officer Jason Rogers said it’s a simple job and the work will be done over the winter break.
• The district will use WLCS, a video-streaming channel to provide an on-demand learning experience. The board approved the web-based channel, which will allow for personalized content, morning news programs and sharing information about events with the community.
• Assistant Superintendent Susan Avant presented the proposed 2016-17 school calendar. Avant said the calendar may be found on the district website and people can leave comments about the calendar.
• An action item on the videotaping of board meetings was tabled. Baker said some of the board members had questions about taping the meetings.

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