The Oconee County Board of Education at its meeting on Monday officially adopted a millage rate of 16.5, down from the 17.0 from last year, and the lowest property tax rate collected for the county’s schools since 2003.
The millage rate vote was unanimous and expected, as the Board of Education had adopted a budget for the 2019-2020 Fiscal Year that began on July 1 based on the lowered rate.
Even with the drop in the millage rate, the county property tax for support of the schools increased due to the increased assessment of value of unchanged properties in the county, and the Board held three hearings in recent weeks on the resulting tax increase.
Such hearings are required by state law.
Only one person, John Webb, 1320 Bent Creek Road, off Hodges Mill Road, spoke at one of the three hearings.
Webb thanked the Board for reducing the rate by a half point but requested that it cut back on spending to reduce it further.
The regular meeting of the Board of Education was a short one, consumed largely by recognition of student achievements in the Future Farmers of America programs at the county’s two high schools and two middle schools.
|Oconee County High School FFA Awardees|
The Board also recognized participants in the District Partnerships: Peach State Federal Credit Union; Benson's Hospitality Group/Spring Hill Suites; Zaxby's of Watkinsville; Walton EMC; Oconee Chamber of Commerce; Heyward Allen Toyota/Motor Company; Georgia United Credit Union; BankSouth; Oconee State Bank, and Chick-fil-A.
Chief Financial Officer Saranna Charping told the Board that the 1 percent Education Local Option Sales Tax collections are averaging a 7.8 percent increase over the same month a year ago.
Her report showed that current tax has produced $11.5 million against the projected $39.9 million to be collected over the five years of the tax. The current tax began on Jan. 1, 2018.
The Board Borrowed $23.5 million against the tax revenue, and Charping told the Board the a bond payment of $441,488 is due this calendar year and $6,140,675 is due in the 2020 calendar year.
The school system had made only $882,975 in bond payments as of July 31, 2019, according to Charping’s report.
At present, Charping’s report to the Board shows, the system has $ 6,137,321 in ELOST Funds available as of the end of July.
The Board of Education held the legally mandated Tax Hearings on the morning and evening of Aug. 1 and again before the Board meeting on Monday.
Webb spoke at the meeting in the evening of Aug. 1.
“First of all,” Webb said, “I wanted to commend you for the reduction in the millage rate.”
Webb is a regular at these annual hearings, and he reminded the Board that he spoke last year.
Even with the cut, Webb said, “It’s still a rate increase, gentlemen, and ladies. It’s still a rate increase.”
Requests Spending Cut
It is always possible to find a way to spend increased tax revenue, Webb told the Board, but it also is possible to find a way to cut spending.
The Board of Education approved its current fiscal year budget with the lower tax rate on June. 10, and Webb acknowledged he should have made his requests for additional tax cuts at that time.
The rate has been 17.0 for the last four years. The Board decreased the rate from 18.5 in 2013. In 2003, it was 16.3.
At the end of his comments, Webb asked the Board to allow him to continue beyond his allotted three minutes to thank the School System for allowing him to substitute teach at Oconee County High School after he retired from Oconee State Bank.
He was granted permission and spoke for a total of just less than nine minutes.
The first video below is of the Board of Education meeting of Aug. 12.
The recognitions start at 1:41 in the video.
Charping began her report at 19:22 in the video.
The second video is of the Tax Hearing held by the Board of Education on Aug. 1.
Webb began speaking at 3:01 in the video.
I attended the other two tax hearings as well and made a video record of them. That video is available on the Oconee County Board of Education channel on the Oconee County Observations Vimeo site.