Board mulling sales tax

By Trina Trice

The school board will need to campaign for a new SPLOST to build the 13 new schools needed over the next five years.

The recommendation for another Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax came from John Ramage, assistant superintendent for facilities and construction, at a Clayton County Board of Education committee meeting Monday night at King Elementary School.

Board members present at the meeting were Chairwoman Nedra Ware and Carol Kellam, Barbara Wells and Ericka Davis.

"We need to (have another SPLOST) if John is recommending that," Davis said. "We have a lot of schools we've got to build."

Ware thought it was premature to comment on any plans the board may have for a future SPLOST.

If the board chooses to ask for another SPLOST, plans would have to be in place prior to the 2004 election.

The current 1999 SPLOST, the school system's second, is in its fourth year.

The proposed amount of $269.5 million is funding the renovations on and construction of several existing and new schools, including the two elementary schools n King Elementary School and Jackson Elementary School n opening this fall.

Due to the sluggish economy, though, collections on the SPLOST are lower than anticipated, Ramage said.

The school system collects, on average, $3.9 million a month on the SPLOST. At that rate, the school system will be behind $33 million on its collection at the end of the five-year collection period.

"We're still behind," he said. "We still anticipate being behind $30 million to $35 million."

In other business, the school board is increasing the property taxes by 8.26 percent over the rollback millage rate.

Each year, the Board of Tax Assessors is required to review the assessed value of taxable property in the county. When the trend of prices on properties that have recently been sold indicates there has been an increase in the fair market value of any specific property, the Board of Tax Assessors is required by law to re-determine the value of the property and increase the assessment. This is called a reassessment.

When the total digest of taxable property is prepared, Georgia law requires that a rollback millage rate must be computed that will produce the same total revenue on the current year's new digest that last year's millage rate would have produced had no reassessment occurred.

The budget adopted by the board requires a millage rate higher than the rollback millage rate.

Before the board can finalize the budget and set a final millage rate, state law requires that the board have three public hearings to allow the public an opportunity to express opinions on the increase.

The board approved a 2004 $327.3 million budget that requires a 1-mill increase from 17.916 to 18.916.