Kyla Cromer was sworn in as an interim school board member by Cherokee County Probate Court Judge Keith Wood, before the Board of Education meeting began Wednesday. Cromer replaced former member Kelly Trim, who resigned following a felony conviction in April.
One of Cromer’s first actions as a school board member was to vote with other board members in favor of the district’s new budget, which passed with a unanimous vote.
Although the school district’s millage rate fell slightly from 19.84 to 19.45 mills, the lowest rate since 2009, the rise in property values in the county would mean an increase in tax revenue for the district.
The school board’s adopted budget calls for a 6.89 percent increase in taxes. For a home with a fair market value of $150,000, the increase would mean an extra $70 in taxes, documents show.
Nobody spoke at any of the three public hearings on the budget before it was adopted.
Because of the increase in tax revenue, the school district could see an additional $8.1 million in tax revenues in the fiscal year that began July 1, documents show.
Carrie McGowan, a spokeswoman for the district, said earlier in July if the district were to roll the millage rate back to a revenue neutral number, the school system wouldn’t be able to fund many improvements in the budget for this year.
“It would mean a reduction of $8.1 million in projected revenue, which would make it impossible to meet school board members’ top budget priorities of reducing class size, eliminating furlough days and restoring professional development days,” McGowan said.
McGowan added at the time the property tax digest increase “is now only near the same level as it was eight years ago in 2006, while CCSD has enrolled an additional 4,400 students since that time.”
School Board member Patsy Jordan and board Chair Janet Read both thanked the district staff and superintendent Wednesday for their work on the new budget
“I want to thank you for keeping the collective priorities of the school board in mind to get us where we need to be so that we can continue to offer a quality education to every student that will be joining us,” Read said.
To remain revenue-neutral and not increase taxes, the district would have had to roll back the millage rate to 18.197 mills, budget documents show.
The school district’s adopted budget is made up of five main funds, the largest of which is the general, or operating, fund.
The general fund, representing $347.7 million of the total budget, is “what it costs to run the day-to-day operations of the district,” McGowan said.
The vast majority of money in the general fund, about $215.5 million, or 67.4 percent, is budgeted for instruction.
The next largest chunk of the proposed budget is the building fund, accounting for $88.8 million, with $45 million set aside for building construction this year, documents show.
The third biggest fund in the proposed budget is the debt service fund, which includes $57.8 million, with $29.5 million budgeted for debt service.
The other two main funds are the grants fund, at $13.5 million, and the school food service fund, at $19.9 million. All other funds included in the proposed budget account for the remaining $2.4 million.
A copy of the budget is available online at the school district website, along with an executive summary of the budget.
To find the budget documents, visit portal.cherokee.k12.ga.us/departments/pr/OGP/ and open Section B, titled “Current Budget,” then select the desired document.
Also at the meeting Wednesday:
• School Board Attorney Tom Roach told the board he received a check for $3,600 as payment for fines Trim owed for her ethics violation sanction last October, when she still resided on the board;
• The board approved a formal resolution for a special election to fill the District 1 school board seat. Cromer abstained from the vote, citing her intention to run for office in the Nov. 4 election; and
• The board approved the first reading of revisions to the school board policy regarding weapons on school property as a result of changes in state law. A final vote on the change will happen at the Aug. 14 meeting. School District spokeswoman Barbara Jacoby explained, “The board will continue to prohibit weapons on school property, where possible, and will discourage possession of weapons on school properties when otherwise authorized.”