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Petruzielo Recommends School Property Tax Reduction

If approved, the Cherokee County School Board's millage rate could be reduced from 19.85 to 19.45.

Credit: Patch file
Credit: Patch file
If the Cherokee County School Board takes the advice of Superintendent Dr. Frank Petruzielo, property owners could see a reduction in their property taxes.

The superintendent released a few more recommendations pertaining to the district's fiscal year 2014-15 budget. Petruzielo recommends the board eliminate its general obligation bond millage rate, which is the .4 mills out of the district's 19.85 millage rate. 

Eilminating that rate would effectively reduce the board's rate to 19.45. While keeping the .4 mills would generate about $2.5 million in revenue, Petruzielo noted "that’s revenue that should not be collected because that debt has been paid."

The bond millage was implemented before the option of Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax was granted to school system.

The Cherokee County School Board's general obligation bond referendum, which was used to raise money to buy land and build schools, was approved by voters in September 1993.

The referendum required the district to repay the debt through property taxes for up to 30 years. The debt relating to those bonds has now been retired, so the mill can now be removed from property tax bills. 

“The elimination of this property tax represents a promise kept by the school board and administration,” said Petruzielo, after explaining that the debt service tax was approved by voters in 1993 with the understanding that, once the associated bonds were paid off, the tax would end. “We’re not leaving this toll bridge up to fill the coffers – the debt has disappeared and so should the tax. This is yet another example of how the public’s trust in the school board and administration has been and continues to be a wise investment.”

Other new recommendations from the superintendent include:
  • Implementing an automated substitute teacher system for classroom teachers to use
  • piloting a school entry door security system in one innovation zone
  • establishing a parent notification system for phone, tex and email alerts.
  • funding annual longevity step increases for eligible employees
  • using any remaining funds to further reduce class sizes for fourth and fifth-grade levels
The latest proposals come on the heels of earlier recommendations made by Petruzielo, some of which include restoring the school district calendar to a full 180 instructional days; hiring an additional 49 teachers, which would mean a reduction in class sizes for students in kindergarten through third grade; eliminating three furlough days for district employees; and increasing the time school nurses are available from five and one-half hours to a full six hours each day. 

Major projects slated to be funded in the upcoming budget include closing out the Teasley Middle School replacement, completion of the Cherokee High School athletic and physical education facilities, construction of the replacement Dean Rusk Middle School in Hickory Flat and the construction of a parent drive at Carmel Elementary School in Woodstock. 

Revenue from the local tax digest fell $28.4 million — about $6.2 million per year — between 2008 and 2013, according to the district. While preliminary figures indicate the digest could see a net increase of 6 to 7 percent for the upcoming fiscal year, the district notes that increase would only restore the digest to 2006 levels — with the strain of having to operate with an additional 4,400 students. 

However, the final digest numbers have not been calculated. 

The proposed fiscal year 2014-15 budget will be introduced during the board's June 19 meeting. 
Lone Stranger May 16, 2014 at 05:01 PM
Well this is the way we need to be talking. A reduction in taxes is always welcome.
Allah Tabul May 17, 2014 at 06:47 AM
This is good news. Now maybe he can help get that HS graduation rate moving in the right direction?
Renee Gable May 17, 2014 at 10:25 AM
When was the bond paid in full?

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