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Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Bibb school board weighs potential tax increase to avoid looming school closures

Laura Corley | The Macon Newsroom
Bibb County Schools Superintendent Dan Sims, second from left, made no specific recommendations to the board regarding the millage rate.

The Bibb County Board of Education is set to decide whether it will maintain the current millage rate and raise taxes to postpone looming school closures or rollback the millage rate and close one or two schools over the next five years.

Bibb Schools CFO Sharon Roberts presented options to the school board Monday evening at a called meeting at Howard High School. The board is set to vote on a tentative millage rage Thursday at its regular monthly meeting.

Last May, as the fiscal year 2023 budget was being ironed out, former Superintendent Curtis Jones urged the board to consider cost-cutting measures to demonstrate good stewardship and efficient use of taxpayer money. School closures and reducing staff were among options presented to the board again Monday.

The board is considering proposals that include maintaining the current mileage rate, adopting a partial rollback or adopting a full rollback.

The first proposal, entitled “Option A,” increases property taxes and keeps the current millage rate at 16.72 mills. The district would take in an estimated $10.4 million, revenue that would allow it to delay closing any schools for at least the next five years, according to Roberts’ presentation.

The district also would be in a position to afford the $6 million it will cost to implement recommendations from a salary study for employees including bus drivers, cafeteria workers and campus police, Roberts said.

Should the board choose this option, Roberts said it is unlikely an increase to the millage rate will be needed in the next five years.

Maintaining the millage rate would equate to an annual property tax increase of $124.29 to a taxpayer who owns a $150,000 house. If the homeowner has homestead exemption, the tax increase would amount to $109.71.

The second proposal, entitled “Option B,” is a partial rollback of the millage rate from 16.72 to 15.68 mills.

Roberts’ presentation indicated the district would have to close at least one school and possibly two over the next five years should it choose this option. Though a partial rollback results in a property tax increase for residents, it would mean only $4.9 million in revenue for the district.

Should the board choose Option B, Roberts said the district would not be able to implement recommendations from the salary study, but it would be able to offer limited raises and better support for students, Roberts said.

Should the board choose this option, the district would likely need to increase the millage rate in 2027 and again in 2028 to maintain financial stability. It may also need to use a Tax Anticipation Note, a type of short-term debt security, to pay employee salaries in 2025 as its fund balance ratio by then is projected to be below 15%.

For a taxpayer who owns a $150,000 house, Option B would result in an property tax increase of about $62.10 per year. If the property owner has homestead exemption, the cost of the increase would amount to $54.85 per year.

The third proposal, entitled “Option C,” is a full rollback of the millage rate from 16.72 to 14.65 mills. This option would require the district to close two schools within the next five years to maintain fiscal stability.

Should the board choose Option C, it would need to reduce programs for students and eliminate salary increases for employees. Option C would also mean the school board would need to increase the millage rate by 2 mills in 2026 and plan to use a Tax Anticipation Note to pay employee salaries in 2025.

Should the board choose Option A or Option B, which both amount to property tax increases, it would be required to hold three public hearings before final adoption on Aug. 10.

The school board is set to meet at the Professional Learning Center on Riverside Drive at 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

The millage rate has not increased in the last dozen years. Roberts presented data showing Bibb Schools has among the lowest millage rates of any comparable district.

Bibb schools millage rate presentation from a called board meeting July 17, 2023. | Bibb schools

To contact Civic Journalism Fellow Laura Corley, call 478-301-5777 or email [email protected].

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