No Increase in County School Mills
BY BRIAN JONES
COLUMBUS – The Lowndes County School Board held a special meeting Sept. 4 and made a slight change in its tax request to avoid an increase in taxes.
At a Sept. 1 special meeting, Tax Assessor Greg Andrews and County Administrator Ralph Billingsley told the board that a combination of the devaluation of a property by the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors and inventory reductions at Airbus and Stark Aerospace had caused the value of a mill to be lower than expected. As a result, the dollar amount the board requested for their FY16 budget would cause taxes to go up by about 1.56 mills.
Over the course of the meeting the board wrestled with several ways to solve the problem, but were unable to take action. Brian Clark made a motion to leave the dollar amount requested the same, but his motion died for lack of a second. Wesley Barrett made a motion, seconded by Jane Kilgore, to reduce the budget by about $518,000, which would not require the tax increase. His motion deadlocked 2-2, with Clark and Jacqueline Gray voting no, and Barrett and Kilgore voting yes. Bobby Barksdale was not present at that meeting.
That meeting adjourned without any action being taken.
The board reconvened Sept. 4 to take the matter up again.
Andrews and Business Manager Ken Hughes explained that the county and the district had reached a middle ground that minimized the reduction of the district’s request while also allowing the millage to remain unchanged.
“The district’s original tax request was $15,787,976,” Hughes said. “We’ve reduced that to $15,601,198. That’s a reduction of $186,778. I want to to publicly thank Greg Andrews and (Lowndes County Chief Financial Officer Dave Basinger) and the people at the county for working with us to make sure the millage rate will stay the same as last year. We owe them a debt of gratitude for working with us to get this request to where it’s at.”
Barrett made the motion to lower the levy by $186,778, and was seconded by Kilgore. It was approved 3-0. Clark and Gray were not present.
Andrews and Hughes explained after the meeting that the district was able to hold steady due to a combination of negotiation over the effective value of a mill and cuts to the request.
The district cut $425,000 from its original request of $15,787,976, Andrews explained, but then took in $238,222 in Homestead Exemption losses. That yielded a total request of $15,601,198, or $186,778 less than the original amount.
Andrews said that the district also used a slightly different figure for the value of a mill than in the original calculations. The actual value of a mill is $335,873. Andrews said he recommended the district use the reduced figure of $332,000, which is what they used to begin with. After negotiating with the county, all parties agreed the district would calculate its budget based on a value of $334,000 and a collection rate of 98 percent.
The reduced request, plus the slightly different value of a mill, led to the millage remaining unchanged.
Andrews said that the district will also see about $376,000 in fee in lieu money from KioR, and that that money is not included in the FY16 budget. Because fees in lieu are unencumbered, the district can use that funding however it wants.
Hughes said that if the district still comes up short at the end of the fiscal year it can declare a shortfall.