The Oconee County Board of Education on Monday evening unanimously adopted a final millage rate of 15.5 for 2022, rather than the 16.25 rate proposed by Superintendent Jason Branch.
The 15.5 millage rate represents a tax increase of 4.7 percent from the 2021 rate.
The Board would have had to have reduced the millage rate to 14.8 to have avoided an increase in property taxes for Oconee County property owners for the year.
The reduction in the millage rate from the proposed 16.25 in the budget approved by the Board on June 6 followed three public hearings, including one just before the Monday evening meeting of the Board.
Citizens protested the Board decision not to reduce the millage rate to 14.8 percent. The tax increase represented by the 16.25 millage rate was 9.8 percent.
Oconee County Schools issued a news release on Tuesday saying that the 15.5 mills is “the lowest rate this century and a full point decrease from the previous rate of 16.5.”
The proposed tax increase for a home with a fair market value of $450,000 is approximately $124.60, according to the news release.
The median price of homes sold in 2021 in the county, new and existing, was $450,000, according to county Chief Appraiser Allen Skinner.
The action by the Board on Monday followed the request by Chief Financial Officer Liz Harlow that the Board adopt “the superintendent recommended approval of the FY 23 millage rate of 16.25 mills.”
|Screen Shot Of Harlow Before Board 8/1/2022|
Harlow reminded the Board that it already had “tentatively adopted a millage rate of 16.25, which is a decrease of .25 mills from last year’s millage rate.”
“As a reminder, the budget process began in February with reviewing division budgets, staffing allotments, school allotments through March,” she said.
“The tentative budget was presented on May 2 and tentatively adopted on May 9. The final budget and tentative budget for a tentative millage rate of 16.25 was reviewed and adopted on June 6,” she continued.
The required budget hearings were held on May 16 and May 23 prior to the final adoption of the budget on June 6, she said, and the required tax increase hearings were held on July 25 and before the meeting on Monday.
“All requirements have been satisfied for the adoption of the final millage rate,” she said in concluding her report.
Gap In Video
The video of the meeting released by Oconee County Schools ends abruptly and before the Board took action on the recommendation of Branch as relayed by Harlow.
I was not able to attend the meeting for health reasons.
In the news release posted by Oconee County Schools on Tuesday, Board Chair Kim Argo is quoted as saying “The Board is committed to fiscal responsibility and conservative budgeting, while ensuring the school system has the resources it needs to maintain excellence.”
“The Board is pleased to reduce the millage rate by a full point while maintaining a budget that fully supports the exemplary teaching and learning that occurs in our school system each day,” the quote by Arlo continues.
The news release said the Board vote on the final millage rate was unanimous.
Susan Stancil, Chief Academic Officer for Oconee County Schools, reviewed on Monday three new Board policies, dealing with Unstructured Break Time, Divisive Concept Complaint Resolution Process, and Material Harmful to Minors Complaint Resolution Process.
In each case, Stancil reported that the policy “had been placed on the table” at the July 18 meeting of the Board and “no feedback has been received at this time” and that it was the recommendation of the superintendent that these be adopted at the Aug. 8 Board meeting.
“I have read through this two or three times,” Board Member Tim Burgess said of the Divisive Concepts policy. “It is pretty detailed. Was there any discretion available in developing this or is this pretty much written as dictated by the state law as passed?”
“It is written as dictated by the state law,” Stancil said.
“So this policy is based part and parcel in total on the state law with no discretion or any deviation by the Board is possible?” Burgess asked.
“That is correct,” Stancil replied.
“Same question. Same as before?” Burgess asked about the policy on Material Harmful to Minors
“Yes,” Stancil responded.
Other Board Reports
Stancil also told the Board that the 2022 Milestones report had been released and “You will be very pleased to see that we increased or maintained our rankings on almost every assessment given.”
Fred Ricketson, Director of Facilities for Oconee County Schools, told the Board that construction on Colham Ferry Elementary School, High Schools Elementary School, Oconee County Primary School, and Oconee County Elementary School had been completed for the beginning of the school year on Wednesday.
Brook Whitmire, Chief Human Resources Officer, told the Board that 131 new employees had been hired for the new year, including 77 new teachers.
Dallas LeDuff, Director of Student Services gave the Board an update on COVID-19 policies for the new year and said “Oconee County Schools no longer collects data on individual positive cases or sends out notifications for those positive cases.”
LeDuff also reviewed school safety practices in the schools.
“Twice a year we conduct lock down drills where we teach students how to respond to an active threat on campus,” he said. “The Sheriff’s Office is always there to assist us in that endeavor.”
The video below appears on the Oconee County Schools YouTube Channel and can be reached via the link below.
As the message indicates, Oconee County Schools will not allow me to embed the video on this site.
Harlow made her comments to the Board at 20:51in the video.