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School board approves millage rate increase
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Rockdale County's school board approved on Thursday an increase in the school portion of the property tax by 1.5 mills to 26 mills, as anticipated.

The millage rate increased passed unanimously at the July 11 school board meeting. Board members Katrina Young and Sharon Pharr were not present.

The school board had adopted a final budget on June 20 of about $122 million that was based on a tax increase of 1.5 mills. The budget also had a cut of 44 teacher positions, seven to eight furlough days, and a reduced student calendar of 170 days. 

Due to a higher than expected drop in the local tax digest of nearly 20 percent, rather than 4 to 9 percent as seen in previous years, the school board had to find $19.2 million in cuts rather than $14.4 million in cuts.

Also due to the drop in property assessments, the 26 mill rate will still bring about $7.2 million or 13.4 percent less than last year's rate of 24.5 mills.

Board member Tony Dowdy had read a statement before the June 20 vote where he voted for the budget that would require a millage rate increase. "No one likes the idea of funding tax rates, but in order to continue funding central services... We must make hard choices to continue the education of our children."  

The school portion of the property tax had remained at 24.5 mills for the last two years. In 2010 it was 22.99 and in 2009 and 2008 it was 21.

Rockdale is one of the few school systems in the state that has an exception that allows it to go beyond the 20-mill cap, which most other Georgia school systems face, up to a maximum of 30 mills.