Bryan County Schools Superintendent Dr. Paul Brooksher said Thursday the district will likely seek a smaller millage rate increase than he had earlier projected.
In May, Brooksher told school board members he may ask for a millage rate increase between 1 and 2 mills, in part to operate the new Frances Meeks Elementary School, which is projected to open this fall.
But at a board of education workshop Thursday in Richmond Hill, the superintendent said the district can make its budget, which last year was around $84 million, work with an increase of less than 1 mill – or .925 mills, to be exact.
That’s at least partly due to an increase in the county’s tax digest, which is estimated to have grown by about 8 percent over last year, according to Melanie James, assistant superintendent for finance and human relations. About two third of the increase in the digest is due to new growth in the county, she said. The other third is due to revaluations of existing property.
The increase would raise the school system millage rate from 15.075 mills to 16 mills. It’s currently at 15.075 mills. In addition, taxpayers are paying 1.5 mills to cover approximately $100 million in new bonds approved in 2017 to fund construction of new schools.
The school board will have to hold public hearings before any millage rate increase.
Brooksher told board members he will send an email in July out to teachers and parents explaining how schools will reopen in the fall. While school officials expect schools will reopen on Aug. 5, it’s unclear what that will look like due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
One of the many challenges the system faces is getting kids to and from school. Under current state social distancing guidelines, only 11 kids can ride on a 72 passenger bus.
Approximately 7,000 students ride buses in Bryan County.
In May, school officials announced they would hold a formal graduation in July for seniors at the Savannah Civic Center. But ongoing social distancing guidelines and other concerns raised by the COVID-19 pandemic coupled with the popularity of the drive-through graduations at Richmond Hill High School and Bryan County High School have caused officials to revisit the idea.
The system will contact seniors and their families by July 9 -- the deadline to reserve the civic center is July 10 -- and make a decision.
The cost to hold a single graduation at the civic center is approximately $25,000, according to school officials.