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County OK’s school bonds, tax district

POSTED: April 12, 2018 8:12 a.m.

Bonds that will pay for two new schools in South Bryan and other school upgrades took another step forward Tuesday night.

The Bryan County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution agreeing to levy and collect taxes for Bryan County Schools on general obligation bonds that voters approved in March 2017. The county is required by law to adopt the resolution as the main taxing entity.

Voters approved $100 million in bonds, most of which will be spent on a new Richmond Hill High School and a new elementary school, both of which will be built near the current Richmond Hill Middle School.

The school district recently sold $74 million of those bonds for 30 years at 3.5 percent interest. Attorney Andrew Johnson, representing Bryan County Schools, said the bid received $500 million worth of offers in 30 minutes.

“The Board should be proud of the fact that Bryan County bonds were a valuable commodity,” he said. “These investors were investing in the community, and it appears that we have a valuable product.”

The school board will now have to determine each year if a millage rate increase will be necessary in order to pay off the bonds. That will be contingent on how much money the current millage rate raises each year, along with the E-SPLOST. Calculations indicate that by the time the bonds are paid off, taxpayers will have spent $133 million in principal and interest.

Commissioners also approved a special taxation district for the unincorporated portion of the county. This will ensure that taxes collected from residents who do not live in the cities of Pembroke or Richmond Hill will go toward paying for services the county only provides outside of those municipalities.

“It’s a way to make sure specific revenue goes to pay for specific services,” County Administrator Ben Taylor said. “It ensures tax equity between the people who live in the unincorporated part of the county and the people who live in the cities.”

Specific county services that will be paid for by the special taxing district, for example, include things such as fire protection, solid waste collection, mosquito control and planning.

At the same time, the move ensures that taxes collected from residents living in Pembroke and Richmond Hill do not go toward paying for county services those residents do not receive. Fire protection and trash pickup, for example, are paid for by city residents through their respective city millage rates.

County taxes as a whole outside of the special district — essentially all other property taxes paid  by all county residents — will pay for services that are provided to everyone on a countywide basis. Those services include courts, EMS, elections, libraries and road maintenance.

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