Paulding’s school board is choosing to forego more than $500,000 in additional revenue by proposing a property tax rate lower than the previous year for its 2020 budget.
Board members voted Tuesday, June 11, to approve a total $355 million budget that includes an almost $298 million General Fund.
It also includes a proposed schools property tax rate of 18.750 mills to fund the budget, which will reduce by more than $500,000 the property tax revenue produced if the current 18.879 mills was approved.
However, state law still defines the action as a tax increase and the board has scheduled three public hearings on the rate it is proposing. A rollback to 17.395 mills is required to avoid a tax increase.
The board approved a 2020 General Fund budget which is a 6.5% increase from 2019.
Major increases include almost $15 million, or 8%, more for instruction which comprises the majority of the General Fund. Funding for "improvement of instruction," such as professional learning sessions and materials, increased by $1.1 million or 10%.
The approved budget offsets the increases with decreased spending from 2019 in such areas as bus purchases, for which spending dropped 34%.
Chief Financial Officer Steve Barnette said he opted not to budget for purchase of as many buses as in previous years. The district’s target is replacement of buses every 10 years, he said.
Superintendent Brian Otott said the board has chosen to keep the current schools tax rate of 18.879 mills in place since 2014. The last decrease was in 2013.
Since 2000, the board has decreased the tax rate three times and increased it twice, including 2.5 mills each in 2001 and 2007.
Some board members asked the Paulding County Commission to emphasize economic development in its 2020 budget.
They said new industrial and commercial construction is needed to relieve the comparatively higher tax burden Paulding homeowners bear to fund services compared to neighboring counties which have more industry.
Board member Glen Albright said "the reality is Paulding County as a community has made the choice to not have industrial … manufacturing.”
“Until we get that balance corrected … all of the weight of the tax burden is going to be on the homeowner,” Albright said.
Barnette said a tax digest which is more “balanced” between sales and property taxes from industrial and commercial sources, and property taxes from homeowners “is the only true, long-term solution” for budgeting that now requires annual property tax increases to maintain service levels.
Public hearings on the property tax increase are set for Tuesday, June 18, at 8:30 a.m. and 6 p.m., and June 25 at 8 a.m. at the Paulding Board of Education main office at 3236 Atlanta Hwy. in Dallas.