Liberty County taxpayers, facing tax hikes from three government entities, got a break from the school board Tuesday night when it reduced the millage rate for education from 16 to 15.60.
During the required public hearing portion of the meeting, Assistant Superintendent for Business and Finance Jason Rogers narrated a slide presentation which one audience member described as “poor-mouthing.”
Rogers told the audience of the numerous and increasing costs the schools must pay such as teacher salary supplements, health care insurance, fuel, textbooks, student transportation and others.
He noted the schools do not receive the total income from the millage rate they set because the county is authorized to charge about half a mill for the costs of collecting the taxes.
Rogers also said during the hearing that the agencies which pay funds to the school system do so on their own schedules. Employees, contractors and vendors expect to be paid on time.
But Rogers said, “This is November and we have yet to receive the first penny of county or impact aid funds.”
Impact aid — federal funds the schools receive to make up for the effect for the Fort Stewart — were the subject of much of the discussion Tuesday.
To receive the largest portion of the federal impact aid - designated for heavily impacted systems — the local millage be at least 95 percent of the millage rate of the systems in the state, although some items are excluded from the computation. This presents challenges for the local board.
It means that Liberty’s school millage rate will tend to be high, to stay at 95 percent of the state average. (Though many counties, including nearby counties, are higher.) And it means the Liberty board can be delayed in setting its millage rate because the average cannot be determined until all, or nearly all, other school boards have set their rates.
To allow the BoE to cut the tax rate Tuesday night, staff members were telephoning school systems around the state to get a last-minute read on what the state average might be.