Value of Mill Expected to Drop Again Next Year
BY BRIAN JONES
The Columbus Municipal School Board held its FY15 budget hearing July 11 at 8:30 a.m. Business Officer Tammie McGarr went through each budget area for the trustees and fielded some questions, and Tax Assessor Greg Andrews, who was in the audience, came forward to talk about the millage.[The budget presentation was very similar to the one presented at the work session in June, so I’m not going to go into a lot of detail here. I’m going to hit the numbers, and then skip to Tax Assessor Greg Andrews’ remarks about the millage near the end of the meeting.
[I am also going to point out the “transparency” and “accountability” of having a public hearing at 8:30 a.m., when most of the people it’s held to inform are at work. – Brian Jones]
The district is projecting an enrollment of 4,653 students next year, with 589 employees and an average student-teacher ratio of 25:1.
The budget projects $43.1 million in revenue, with the largest share coming from state dollars. State funds account for $21 million, with local sources bringing in $13 million. [About $12 million of that is ad valorem taxation. – Brian Jones] Federal funds come to about $8 million, with Sixteenth Section income at $20,000.
On the expenditure side, the district is projecting $44.4 million. About $22.2 million of that goes to instructional services, and about $14.7 million to support services. The rest is made up of $3 million in non-instructional services, and $4.4 million in debt service.
Instructional expenditures break down as follows:
• Elementary: $8.8 million. Serves 2,475 students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. Includes 126 certified staff and 43 paraprofessionals.
• Middle: $3.2 million. Serves 978 students in grades six through eight. Includes 52 certified staff and three paraprofessionals.
• High: $4.3 million. Serves 1,200 students in grades nine through 12. Includes 61 certified teachers and five paraprofessionals.
• Gifted: $383,225. Serves 350 students in grades two through eight. Includes five certified staff.
• Special Education: $4 million. Serves 619 students. Includes 54 certified staff and 20 paraprofessionals.
• Alternative Education: $207,924. Four certified staff. Serves 85 students in grades K-12, as well as providing services at the Juvenile Detention Center.
• Vocational education: $1 million. Provides 10 career education programs at McKellar Technology Center. Serves 445 students and includes 14 certified staff members.
• Other special functions: $147,983. Includes tutors at Palmer Home, homeless tutors, English Language Learners tutors and dropout prevention.
The district is paying out $4.4 million in debt service. Two pieces of debt – the 2007 General Obligation bonds and the 2011 shortfall note – will be paid off after this fiscal year, freeing up $1.6 million.
Although the district’s expenditures are greater than its revenues, McGarr explained that there will not be a shortfall. There is already money in the debt service fund which, by law, may only be used to pay down debt. Since the district already has it on hand, they do not need to ask for it, so it does not appear as revenue.
Andrews, who was in the audience, was asked to talk about the value of a mill.
“Since 1988 we have backed off $4,500 per mill,” Andrews said. “If a mill produces $205,000, we automatically back off $4,500. That gives you a buffer. The actual value of a mill from this past year was $203,800. What we do is back off the $4,500 on each budget so at the end of the fiscal year we have more than enough money and don’t have to declare a shortfall. This year we backed off $7,000 per mill. On May 13 or so we told (McGarr and Interim Superintendent Edna McGill) that a mill was worth $200,000 at that time.
“This year we have $8.4 million rolling off,” he said. “That was Sanderson Plumbing, who is out of business and bankrupt. You have $8.2 million coming off from Omnova. They are in the process of going out of business. That $16 million represents about $2.5 million in assessed value, which is another $2,500 per mill.
“Now I don’t care if you consider a mill to be worth $210,000 or $100,000,” he said. “In our opinion you should use $198,000 (as the value of a mill.) If you choose to use $204,000 or $205,000 you will be getting into that reserve at the end of the year.
“Next year, not to be the bearer of bad news, we’ve got an additional $8.8 million coming off next fiscal year from Sanderson Plumbing,” he said. “You’ve got an additional $10.63 million coming off of Omnova, because they will be at the end of their contract and removing their inventory. You’ve got $.12 million coming off of CECO. That’s just the stuff we know about before we go into next year.
“If you use $204,000 as your figure, don’t come to Greg Andrews saying you’re falling $700,000 short at the end of the year,” he said. “I’m going to tell you right up front I told you to use $198,000.”
Andrews warned the trustees that the value of a mill will go down again next year.
“You’ve got to get in a lot of Dick’s and Michael’s to make up $20 million (that’s coming off the rolls),” he said.
At the end of the discussion, McGarr said the district will use the $198,000 value of a mill.