Dalton school board to hold public hearings on proposed tax increase

Sep. 7—The Dalton Board of Education will hold public hearings on the school system's proposed 2023 property tax rate Monday at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. in the council chamber of City Hall, 300 W. Waugh St.

In addition, the school board will hold a work session in the council chamber at 5:30 p.m. and will hold its monthly meeting in the council chamber at 6:30 p.m.

The school board has proposed cutting the property tax rate to 8 mills from 8.09 mills. But that cut would not fully roll back the gains from this year's property reassessments so it is considered a tax increase.

In a press release, the school system said the full rollback rate would be 7.096 mills.

"The board has set a tentative millage rate of 8 mills and the actual rate set by the board could be lower than that," said board Chairman Matt Evans. "But in no case will it be higher. No matter what the final millage is, this year will mark the third consecutive year we have reduced property tax rates and will be the lowest millage rate in nine years."

Evans said in setting the tax rate the board members have multiple factors to consider, including "increased utility costs, higher gas prices for transportation, increased health benefit costs for our staff and reduced state (QBE, Quality Basic Education) funding."

"All of those factors are in addition to the direction laid out in our strategic plan that seeks to provide our students with the support and resources they need to grow academically, socially and emotionally in order to reach their full, God-given potential," Evans said. "The budget we adopt and the millage rate we set have to manage all of these factors and dynamics while maintaining and accelerating our goal to give our students the best education possible."

The proposed tax rate would bring in $3.5 million more than the $95 million they forecasted when they did the budget.

"The proposed tax increase for a home with a fair market value of $125,000 is approximately $113 and the proposed tax increase for a non-homestead property with a fair market value of $600,000 is approximately $519.80," the press release said.

The board members will not vote to set the rate at either of those hearings. They will hold a third public hearing and are expected to set the rate on Tuesday, Sept. 19, at 6:30 p.m. in the council chamber in City Hall.

The board earlier this year approved a $102 million general fund budget for fiscal year 2024, which started July 1. The budget projected revenues of $95 million, leaving a $7 million deficit. The additional revenue from the proposed tax increase would cut the deficit to $3.5 million, which would be covered by the school system's fund balance.

The press release said that in fiscal year 2023, "Georgia school districts experienced a 67% increase in the employer contribution for health insurance for teachers and other certified employees. Although the school district receives state funding to cover some of those cost increases, the district employer health insurance costs exceeded state funding by $900,000."

The press release said the "Dalton Public Schools fiscal year 2024 general fund budget adds instructional positions to support the enrollment growth within district programs. Additionally, the one-time federal funding in response to the coronavirus pandemic is expiring, and the district absorbed a portion of those positions added into the general fund operating budget."