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BOE adopts millage rate
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The Newton County Board of Education officially adopted a millage rate for maintenance and operations at 20 after the third public hearing and July combined meeting Tuesday night, giving even more than originally planned back to teachers and school employees.

With the unanimous vote to keep the millage rate unchanged since the 2009-2010 school year, Newton County School System (NCSS) has room in its budget to give teachers a 3 percent pay increase in the upcoming 2014-2015 school year. The budget approved in June allotted a 2 percent pay increase.

Even with the 3 percent salary increase, NCSS teachers and employees will be earning about $1,000 less than they were in 2009, due to a complete cut in health insurance coverage and drastic cuts in retirement contributions. Eligible employees will be given back one more work day – now three days short of a full work calendar – and a step increase.

The tax digest was originally budgeted to increase about 3 percent but has since been confirmed it will increase 6.84 percent. This increase will generate another $1,649,815 in local revenues for FY 2015, and the addition increase in salary schedules and benefits will cost $970,000.

“As our salaries have been stagnant (in the last five years) and not competitive with other neighboring school systems, we recommend this increase. Every little bit helps,” said Peggy Bullard, NCSS business manager.

By law, the M&O millage rate cannot exceed 20 mills. The NCSS millage rate has been set at the maximum rate since the 2010-2011 school year. A millage rate of 20 this year and the increase in the tax digest is projected to account for $39,509,584 in gross taxes.

The debt service millage was reduced from 1.9 in 2014 to .45 this year, making the total millage rate of 20.45 the lowest in the last three years. The school board intends to use ESPLOST IV funds to help pay the principal and interest on its bonds.

This lower rate should save homeowners with a property value at $100,000 a small amount of school tax dollars. While the M&O taxes for the average sample home will increase by about $51, the bond tax will decrease by about $53, and actual savings for homeowners will depend on a property assessment.