The Jefferson City Board of Education is considering a 1.0 to 1.5 millage rate increase this year.
The system’s tax digest fell by 6.1 percent, a situation that will decrease the system’s revenues by $394,572. In addition, SPLOST revenues have not been as much as anticipated, putting pressure on the system’s bond payments, which come from that source.
Those items, along with continuing state cuts in funding, has put the system in a financial squeeze, leaders said at the BOE meeting Thursday.
“We have made efforts already this year to save as much as we possibly could in the areas we could do so. We’ve reduced staff as much as we can," said Jefferson Financial Officer Kim Navas. "Now we’re getting the low-hanging fruit. There just aren’t many too many options available to us.”
BOE chairman Ronnie Hopkins echoed that feeling.
“In our budget, I don’t think we’ll find any fluff whatsoever,” he said. “We’ve got teachers being furloughed; class sizes are at their maximum. It’s just one of those hard things. But it looks like we’re going to have to do some adjustment on the tax rate.”
The board discussed using up some of its reserves to cover the shortfall, but that wouldn’t solve the problem over the long term, officials said.
“Reducing reserves is one option available to us,” said Navas. “But that just creates other issues down the road in future years. It might save you a year, but you're gonna be creating a larger situation.”
The BOE agreed to advertise a 1.0 mill increase for its general operations budget and a .5 increase in its bond mill rate. The BOE can decide to adopt a lower rate, but cannot raise it over the advertised amount. An increase in one mill will generate $410,445; an increase of .5 mill would net $205,223.
The current operations rate is 14.712 mills and bond rate is 3.345 mills.
The new rate is slated to be voted on Oct. 7 for tax bills to go out by Oct. 20.
The board previously hiked the millage rate 1.492 mills in 2012. The system spends less per student than any other school system in the state, officials said.