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Decatur School Board adopts lower millage rate

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Decatur School Board adopts lower millage rate

Elizabeth Wilson School Support Center, City Schools of Decatur. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Decatur, GA — The City Schools of Decatur School Board approved a lower millage rate during a special called meeting on Thursday, June 15. The millage rate has been reduced from 21 to 20.3 mills for school taxes.

“Reducing the millage rate from 21 to 20.3 would reduce the tax increase for property with a fair market value of $600,000 from $546 to $336,” CSD Chief Financial Officer Lonita Broome said.

Decatur City Manager Andrea Arnold recently said the tax digest increased by 14.7% for the city. She also recommended a decrease in the millage rate for city taxes from 13.17 mills to 12.47 mills.

CSD had projected a 7% increase in the tax digest. With the lower millage rate, City Schools of Decatur would still see some additional revenue. Broome said the district initially projected to receive $54 million in revenue from property taxes. After receiving the tax digest, the projected revenue was anticipated to be $59 million with a millage rate of 21 mills.

With the lower rate, CSD is projected to receive $57 million in tax revenue.

“A millage rate is a property tax on the value of property,” Broome said. “One mill is equal to 0.1%. One mill translates into $1 dollar of property taxes per $1,000 of assessed value. Therefore, 21 mills, which is the tentative-adopted millage rate, would equate to $21 per $1,000 of assessed value.”

She also highlighted a few reasons why the school district would set a millage rate higher than the rollback rate.

“There are numerous justifications for maintaining a millage rate above the rollback rate of 19.179, including allowing the district to maintain a fund balance within the four to 15% range as specified by board policy, providing salary increases to all employees, funding the state’s unfunded mandate for health benefits increases for non-certified employees from $11,340 to $18,960 annually. The district will also be able to provide additional personnel for instruction, security, and support staff,” Broome said.

CSD is also expected to add funds to the fund balance, which is the district’s reserve fund. In the initial FY 2024 budget, the fund balance was projected to be 7.19% of expenditures. At a millage rate of 20.3 mills, about $482,000 would be added to the fund balance, bringing it up to 10.10%.

School Board Chair James Herndon said the decrease of 0.7 mills balances the school board’s need to take good stewardship to keep the fund balance around 10%.

“We were very grateful of having a fund balance when COVID happened…but it also rolls back higher than it would because Decatur continues to grow and the tax digest continues to grow,” Herndon said. “It’s hard to argue with spending what we thought we were going to spend, getting the fund balance, and returning some of the anticipated tax funds back to the property owners.”

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