Sunday, June 30, 2024

Oconee School Board To Hold on Monday First Two Of Three Required Hearings On Tax Increase For $116.6 Million Fiscal Year 2025 Budget

***Third Hearing Set For July 8***

The Oconee County Board of Education will hold two of its three required public hearings on a planned 2.27 percent tax increase at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday (July 1) at the new Instructional Support Center at 71 North Main Street in Watkinsville.

The third hearing will be held at 6 p.m. on July 8, and the Board will be able to vote on its millage rate after that hearing.

The Board is proposing that the millage rate be 14.25, down from the current millage rate of 15.0.

The Board is not planning to roll back the millage rate to 13.934, as would be required to offset fully the inflationary forces in the Oconee County property tax digest reflected in increased assessments for properties that have not otherwise changed. The result is the 2.27 percent tax increase.

The increased tax for a person with a home assessed at $300,000 would be $37.29, for a person with a home assessed at $350,000 it would be $43.61, for a person with a home assessed at $400,000 it would be $49.93, for a person with a home assessed at $450,000 it would be $56.25, and for a person with a home assessed at 500,000 it would be $62.57.

In each case, the calculation assumes the property has the standard $2,000 homestead exemption.

The 14.25 millage rate will generate $50,198.360 in revenue, assuming a 98 percent collection rate.

That figure is $2,936,781 less than was projected in the Fiscal Year 2025 Budget Approved by the Board on June 10 that was based on a millage rate of 15.0 and a projected Tax Digest, or value of property in the county, that was greater than the final digest.

Details Of Budget

The Board, at its June 10 meeting, adopted the Fiscal Year 2025 budget with $116.6 million in revenue and $114.9 million in spending.

Screen Shot Oconee County Schools Web Site

Included in that revenue was $55.4 million in local funding, with $53.1 million of that coming from property and ad valorem taxes.

The $53.1 million in local property tax revenue was based on a millage rate of 15.0, as originally proposed by the Board, and a tax digest of $3.614 billion.

The actual tax digest is $3.594 billion, and the 14.25 millage rate will generate $50.2 million, or $2.9 million less than projected in the budget.

In its news release about the tax hearings, Oconee County Schools did not explain how it would cover that difference.

That approved budget included a surplus of $1.7 million in revenue over spending, and projected revenue from interest income of only $50,000, which is likely to be a gross underestimation of interest earned

The Year-To-Date Budget Report, presented to the Board at its June 10 meeting, showed interest income for the first 10 months of the current fiscal year of $2.2 million.

The Oconee County Schools news release, dated June 24, directed readers to the budget approved on June 10 with the original millage rate of 15.0.

Focus On Spending

The June 24 news release focused on spending in the approved Fiscal Year 2025 budget.

Included is a 4 percent salary increase for all faculty and staff costing $3.3 million, the addition of salary steps for all employees for years 22 through 30 at a cost of $2.2 million.

Health insurance costs to Oconee County Schools will increase by $2.2 million, and Teacher Retirement System contributions will increase by $0.5 million.

Oconee County Schools is adding 19 new positions in the Fiscal Year 2025 Budget at a cost of $1.1 million and funds for a new curriculum at a cost of $0.3 million.

The original budget schedule called for adoption of the millage rate at the Board meeting on Aug. 5.

The June 24 news release does not specify any change in that schedule, but the Board received the Tax Digest from Oconee County Tax Commissioner earlier than usual, making it possible for the Board to take action at its July 8 meeting.

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