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County officials want to gauge public support for another property tax increase.
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Mark Church, the superintendent for Franklin County Public Schools, beseeched members of the county’s board of supervisors Tuesday night to consider providing a forum for citizens to weigh in about the county’s contribution to the schools for the coming fiscal year.
Ultimately, supervisors did just that.
On a vote of 4-3, supervisors authorized county staff to advertise a proposed increase of 2 cents in the county’s real estate tax to help fund the school division.
David Cundiff, chairman of the board of supervisors, cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of advertising the proposed increase as a way to try to gauge support for the schools at the April 16 public hearing.
“I want to hear from all the public, not just a few teachers and a few citizens,” Cundiff said Wednesday. “This is an opportunity for the whole community. I just hope the public will come out and voice their opinion. It’s their money.”
The supervisors’ vote followed a joint work session of supervisors, school administrators and school board members at the Franklin Center.
As envisioned, if supervisors approve the 2-cent increase after the public hearing, the roughly $1.2 million raised would go to the schools.
That money would be added to about $1.1 million in anticipated new county revenues already earmarked for the schools and bring the county’s total contribution to the school division to about $32.8 million for fiscal 2013-14.
The 2-cent increase would take the county real estate tax from 54 cents per $100 of assessed value to 56 cents per $100 of assessed value. The real estate tax for a house with an assessed value of $100,000 would increase by about $20, from about $540 a year to about $560 a year.
By state law, after the public hearing, supervisors could approve the 2-cent increase or reduce it. The board would need to schedule another public hearing to increase it more than 2 percent. The board is scheduled to adopt the budget April 23.
In 2012, supervisors voted to increase the real estate tax from 48 cents per $100 of assessed value to 54 cents per $100 of assessed value. County Administrator Rick Huff said the increase was approved to “recoup a portion of the revenue lost due to a 15 percent county wide drop in real estate values.” To have equalized the revenue to cover all the loss, the county would have had to raise the rate to 57 cents per $100 in assessed value in 2012, Huff said.
On March 12, Church and Ed Jamison, the school board chairman, presented the school division’s proposed $83 million budget to the board of supervisors. At the time, the schools were requesting an increase in county funding of about $5.1 million, which would have brought the county’s total contribution to about $35.6 million.
The schools’ proposed budget included $628,612 for safety upgrades. On Monday, supervisors voted to separately appropriate nearly $400,000 to help the schools install high-definition security cameras.
It was unclear Wednesday how much of a funding gap remained between the school division’s request for county funding and what the county’s contribution will be if the 2-cent increase is approved.
Meanwhile, Cundiff said Wednesday that he appreciated Church’s straightforward discussion of the schools’ funding needs.
“Dr. Church’s presentation was one of the better ones I’ve had since I’ve been on the board of supervisors for the last six years,” Cundiff said.
Church became superintendent in December after serving since mid-July in an interim role.
He and school board members Bill Brush, Sarah Alexander and Crystal Naff emphasized that the schools feel a need to increase pay for teachers to remain competitive with other school divisions and retain experienced teachers. The schools have proposed a pay increase of 2.5 percent for teachers with one to 11 years of experience and higher increases for teachers with 12 to 16 years of experience.
Supervisor Bob Camicia said Wednesday that there are people in the community who are hurting financially and that a tax increase would be an additional burden. He said the school division, like a household, must make spending decisions and set priorities based on what money is available.
In turn, school officials said programs and positions will be cut if the division is not adequately funded because the schools’ budget is already “bare bones.”
Brush said after the meeting that the school board has not yet specifically identified what positions or programs might be cut.
On March 19, Huff presented to supervisors the staff’s proposed budget of about $124 million for the county for fiscal 2013-14. At the time, the staff recommended no tax increases.
The proposed budget includes a 3 percent raise for all county employees, both part time and full time.
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