As required by law, the Gwinnett County Board of Education (GCBOE) will hold three public hearings as part of its process for setting the millage rate. The first and second hearings will be held on June 26 at 11:45 a.m. and 7 p.m. The third public hearing will take place at 7 p.m. on July 12. All of the public hearings are scheduled to take place in the Board Room at the J. Alvin Wilbanks Instructional Support Center, located at 437 Old Peachtree Road NW in Suwanee.
The school system’s Fiscal Year 2018 (FY2018) budget was adopted May 18, 2017. In setting the millage rate to support the FY2018 budget, the School Board is looking to maintain the current total school millage rate of 21.85.
The budget provides resources—both financial and human—to help the school system accommodate its growing student population. Gwinnett County Public Schools’ enrollment is expected to grow by almost 2,000 students, bringing the total projected enrollment for next school year to more than 180,100 students.
State revenue in 2017-18 will increase due to projected growth in student enrollment, a 2% cost-of-living increase to the state teacher salary schedule, increases in employee benefit costs and equalization grant earnings. The QBE “austerity” cut remains the same as in FY2017, with the cumulative effect of these reductions since 2003, is the loss of just under $900 million in state funding for Gwinnett County Public Schools. This still presents a formidable challenge to meeting the future needs of the continually growing school system.
Local revenue also is budgeted to increase by approximately $23.7 million due to a projected net growth of 4.7% in the property tax digest. Even with the projected increase, the school district is collecting approximately $7.6 million less in local property tax revenue compared to what was collected for FY2009.
All of the additional state and local revenue projected for FY2018 is needed to fund the projected student enrollment growth, provide a salary increase for teachers and other school system employees, and pay for the increases in employee benefit costs. All employees will see a 2% cost-of-living increase and, for those eligible, a salary-step increase. The total cost of these salary improvements in FY2018 is $34.7 million.
In order to keep the local tax digest current, the Gwinnett County Tax Assessor’s Office conducts annual property value updates (reassessments) on a rotating basis. By state law, local taxing authorities, such as GCBOE, must either keep their tax collections revenue-neutral (by decreasing the millage rate to offset the gained taxes from the property value updates) or announce a tax increase (even though the actual millage rate is not increasing). The Board is considering adopting a combined millage rate of 21.85, the same millage rate as last year’s rate, and therefore is required to announce a proposed property tax increase. This means that taxpayers whose property has not been reassessed will see no change in their school tax bill.
The total school millage rate is made up of two portions—the maintenance and operations (M&O) millage and the debt-service millage. Funds generated by the M&O millage pay for the day-to-day operations of the school system, including employee salaries, instructional materials, student transportation, and school utility costs. The debt-service millage is used to pay down the School Board’s long-term debt from bond referenda passed over the years to pay for school construction.
The M&O millage is recommended to remain at 19.80 mills and the debt-service rate is recommended to remain at 2.05 mills. This will result in a total recommended millage rate of 21.85 mills.
Citizens may address the Gwinnett County Board of Education at any of the three public hearings. A sign-up sheet will be available at the hearings for those wishing to speak. There is no need to sign up in advance of the meeting date.
A copy of the adopted budget is available for public review on the school system’s website at www.gwinnett.k12.ga.us or through the school system’s Budget Department. For information, call 678-301-6200.