School systems raise taxes statewide - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

School systems raise taxes statewide

July 21, 2003

Albany- As a business and home owner in Dougherty County, Pace Burt knows the importance of good schools.

"Dougherty County School System is the most important economic tool that this community has," Burt said.

But he's still upset to see property taxes going up in Dougherty County.

"If approved, Dougherty County will be highest taxed community south of Atlanta," he said.

The Dougherty County School Board may have to raise taxes 1.6 mills to make this year's budget balance. Cuts from the state and a decreasing tax digest are taking a toll on the system's general fund.

"Where we're getting hit is in our income. Our tax digest, rather than growing at a rate of a million dollars every year has actually been reduced by $320,000 next year," said Robert Lloyd, director of finance for the school system.

The school system has already cut 1.6 million from the budget which included trimming custodial staff, textbook spending and field trips.

And Dougherty County is not alone. Mitchell County taxes are also going up. The board expects to increase the millage rate by 1.6 mills. The Terrell County School Board hasn't decided if taxes are going up, but the school system does have a budget deficit. Taxes are not going up in Lee and Worth counties.

"From what I understand every system in the state is struggling," Lloyd said.

And the situation is not getting any better. State revenue collections for fiscal year 2003 totaled 12.6 billion dollars. That's down from 13 billion dollars in 2002, a 2.6 percent decrease.

But taxpayers want the school board to find a more permanent solution.

"If they don't make some decisions other than stopping field trips and things like that, then it's just a matter of years and a matter of time before they're back looking for another tax increase," Burt said.

Forcing people to pay more for a quality education.

posted at 10:30 p.m. by brannon.stewart@walb.com

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