The Franklin County Board of Education voted unanimously Monday for a 2.7-cent property tax increase, which would generate about $350,000 more for the district.
The district is working with a total budget of about $48.6 million.
The increase to 62.3 cents per $100 of assessed value on real and personal property is the maximum 4 percent allowed without triggering a possible recall by residents — but it wasn’t immune to criticism.
Six Franklin County residents spoke against the tax increase.
“Why do you always have to go into our pockets?” Joyce Groves asked. “I think my britches have a hole in them, and I’m tired of it.”
With an audit in her hand, she questioned many of the costs like Student Support Services, food services and day care.
She failed to mention, however, that board member BeLinda Henson had scheduled a meeting to discuss the budget with her and answer any questions, but Groves called it off, according to Henson and board chair Michelle New.
Board members and Superintendent Chrissy Jones said although the budget is still in progress, they would be happy to explain the district’s efforts to balance numbers to the public.
One parent, Robert Engle, complained about the cost of school supplies, which ran him up a bill of about $100 per student. The school supplies are optional, however.
Others, like City Commissioner Robert Roach, had little issue with the dollar amount of the increase, but rather with what the increase is hoping to accomplish.
“I would ask you all consider setting empirical standards that can be measured,” he said. “If those are met by the county school system, then you would be more inclined toward pushing for tax increases.”
He noted that while test scores have remained largely flat since the 1990s, taxes have increased dramatically.
One resident spoke in favor of the tax increase. Franklin County High School teacher Brenda Graves said many of her fellow teachers are working second jobs or depleting savings because they are among the lowest paid in the region.
“Even if this increase won’t go to teacher raises, it’s a step in the right direction,” she said.
After the board voted for the increase, members discussed the financial situation of Franklin County and other schools across the state and nation.
Member Doug Crowe agreed with opponents that the tax increases are not fair, but he said they are necessary.
“We are asking the local citizens to pick up the ball that the state and the feds have dropped,” Crowe said.
Jones explained some of the cuts the district made, which totaled $1.2 million. The district cut three or four positions from The Academy, the district’s alternative school; reduced the number of bus drivers; and eliminated a prospering science, technology, engineering and mathematics program.
But without at least hiking the rate up to 61.5 cents per $100 of assessed value, the district would lose revenue and would be forced to consider altering class sizes — a factor board member Jennifer Grisham-Brown said is the most important in determining student success.
“To help us educate our children, we are asking the community to take on the hardship with us,” New said. “We can only hope that you will understand this is not going to solve all of our financial problems, but it is going to help us impact the future citizens, which will in turn contribute to our community.”
In other Board of Education news:
>After learning full-day kindergarten classrooms across the district are only being funded by the state for a half-day’s worth of instructional material, the Board of Education voted to provide about $30,000
to supplement that.
>The Board of Education has struck a deal with the Franklin County Fiscal Court to replace the white fence that borders Franklin County High School and Lakeview Park. Franklin County will buy the materials for the fence and Fiscal Court will pay for the installation. A final cost for the project is not yet available.