2010-12-15 / Front Page

Residents oppose BOE tax hike

By Roy F. Chalker Jr. Publisher/Editor

A group of residents asked the Burke County Board of Education to reconsider the two-mil property tax increase proposed by the board on November 29.

At the first of three required public hearings, the board fielded questions concerning personnel, transportation and other expenses last Wednesday night from residents who oppose the millage rate increase from 12.75 to 14.75.

David Hogan, a local developer and forestry manager, said the more than 16 percent increase would be a real hardship on landowners and suggested they consider a “less severe” increase. He questioned a number of expenses, such as the board employing its own full-time attorney rather than keeping one on retainer and the number of coaches needed for the football program.

Board Chairman Johnny Jenkins and Superintendent Linda Bailey told the group that there have already been substantial cuts in personnel, including 23 positions in transportation and a number of teaching and administrative positions.

Local contractor Bill Hammett asked why it was necessary to “babysit” students in the alternative school when exceptional facilities are already being provided.

Several audience members who spoke, including Leonard Hogan and Burke County Commission chairman Wayne Crockett, said they hoped the board would take every cost saving measure possible before raising taxes.

Chairman Jenkins said the millage rate for schools has not been raised in 10 years and that, as property owners themselves, the school board was very reluctant to increase taxes. He and Mrs. Bailey pointed to reduced state funding and unfunded mandates that have been impacting the system’s budget over the past few years.

Approximately 4,400 students attend schools operated by the Burke County Board of Education, which has over 900 employees. BOE Finance Director Alice Marchman told The True Citizen this week that salaries account for about 85 percent of the system’s total budget. An increase of two mills will bring in approximately $3.5 million in property tax funds for the system.

The board will make its final decision on the millage rate Wednesday (today) after the last public hearing at 5:15 p.m.

Without any increase in the millage rate, the approved budget shows a possible $3.3 million deficit for fiscal year 2011. That figure includes the help of more than $300,000 in federal stimulus funds.

2011 BUDGET

Instruction $25.1 million Pupil Services $1.3 million Instructional Improvement $1.3 million Media $770,000 General Administration $1.5 million School Administration $2.9 million Business Office $279,000 Maintenance $3.5 million Transportation $2.7 million Public Relations $83,930 Total $39.4 million

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